Atkinson rallies for world title
Chris Atkinson is powering a Proton to launch an Asia-Pacific attack on the WRC, writes Paul Gover
CHRIS Atkinson is hoping an Asia-Pacific attack will springboard him back into the World Rally Championship. The former Subaru star is now punting a Proton and is in Japan this weekend for Rally Hokkaido, planning to improve on a first-up fourth in this year’s regional series in Malaysia.
He has switched from a world rally car to one of the new-age S2000 cars and, apart from chasing the Asia-Pacific crown, hopes for a series of starts in the booming IRC championship across Europe.
‘‘In an ideal world I’ll be doing 12 rallies this year, the six in the Asia-Pacific and another six in the IRC. It will be difficult with all the travelling, but that’s what I’m hoping for,’’ Atkinson tells carsGuide. ‘‘I’ve just turned 30, and I’ve had a year off, so I’m quite fit and keen. Obviously the main focus for Proton is to win the Asia-Pacific. It’s not the WRC but I’ve got to be aiming to win in everything I do.’’
Atkinson and his former WRC co-drive Stephane Prevot have renewed their partnership in the Proton and the driver says it’s working well, though he is still adjusting to the differences between his turbocharged Subaru — and the WRC Citroen he drove once in Ireland — and the high-revving, allwheel-drive Proton.
‘‘There is a little bit of adjustment, because the Proton is so full-on. You don’t have the power to get you out of trouble,’’ Atkinson says.
Atkinson has been to Rally Hokkaido before, both in his early days in a Suzuki and with the WRC Subaru, and is keen for a win.
‘‘I’ve got fond memories of Japan; it’s the place where I scored my first WRC podium. The stages are good,’’ he says.
‘‘They’re fast and smooth in places, but they are quite technical.
‘‘The last rally in Malaysia was my first real time in the car and, as such, I was still getting used to my new surroundings. In Japan this week, I’ll be more used to the car and I’ll be looking to push harder and see what we can do.’’
But the ultimate goal is still the same as when Atkinson began rallying in Australia — the world title.
‘‘Having this year doing different events should help me move forward to hopefully getting back into the WRC That’s why we do it. That’s still the main aim.’’