Atkin­son ral­lies for world ti­tle

Chris Atkin­son is pow­er­ing a Pro­ton to launch an Asia-Pa­cific at­tack on the WRC, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport -

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.’’

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