Autosport International

Autosport International

Chris Atkinson at ASI

By Alex Sabine

Chris Atkinson at ASI

One of the star-studded cast to appear at the Autosport International show on Friday was the Subaru World Rally Team's new signing Chris Atkinson. The 25-year-old is Australia's brightest rallying prospect and will partner Petter Solberg and Stephane Sarrazin in one of the WRC's most successful works teams in 2005.

Amazingly, Atkinson has never even driven a WRC machine before. He rose to prominence with Asian Pacific Super 1600 titles as well as a handful of impressive showings in a Group N Impreza in world championship events last year. The highlight came in Australia, where he set some stunning stage times and finished a superb fifth overall - the best result for a Group N car in the event's 17-year history.

Atkinson won't be taking part in the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally due to his inexperience with the surface (he is a gravel specialist and has never driven on snow or ice) and the unique nature of the event. His season will instead get underway at the Swedish Rally in February.

We caught up with him to discuss his goals and the challenges facing him in his first season in rallying's top echelon.

It's been pretty incredible. It happened so quickly; we never expected to be in the WRC with a great team like Subaru this year, so it's very exciting for both me and [co-driver] Glenn [McNeill] and we plan to make the most of the opportunity.

I've sat in the passenger seat with both Petter and Stephane but I've never actually driven one, so it's something I'm waiting for and looking forward to. I've had experience in Super 1600 and Group N, but now I've got to prove myself in a WRC car.

Yeah, the Monte is a bit of a lottery really - a lot of tyre choices come into play and considering I've never raced much on tarmac or ice and you get both situations in the Monte it's probably a good plan to build up more slowly and go to Sweden, which is more like the gravel events that I am used to.

World Rally cars are a big step up for me and there's a lot more technical knowledge involved. Setup is very important and I've got to use the team and the engineers around me as that's how you get the speed out of the cars. Obviously in a high-speed event like Sweden, the difference in downforce on a WRC car compared to a Group N car is huge. The way the active diffs work, it's all going to be a lot faster and you have to carry a lot more corner speed. It's going to be fun - I like the fast stages and hopefully I can make the most of them.

There's quite complex technology in the car with the active diffs and the amount of development that goes into the setup of the car. So I've got quite an array of engineers to use and work with to get the most out of my style with the WRC car.

Yeah, I've sort of gone that way anyway - with Super 1600 and Group N I'm reasonably neat, but I think with the aerodynamics and the diffs you can be even neater and hold the line better [in a WRC car]. I think my style should suit that, but because I haven't driven the car yet it's hard to know.

We have to look for the future and obviously we want to be in the WRC for the long term and make a career out of it. I guess the biggest thing is showing potential to win in the future; everyone, like Petter for example, has taken a few years before they start winning and that's part of the challenge of the WRC and the events. But I've got to work hard this year and show that potential.

What my results will be depends on a lot of variables, but I think it's more the stage times and getting the experience. If we can start to set some good stage times towards the end of events and maybe get some good points-scoring finishes in the events we know, then that would be a good year.

It's an amazing team - I've never had such support and resources behind me and to go into a team that's won so many championships before is pretty incredible. That amount of knowledge and experience is priceless, so I'm just trying to make the most of everything that's there and asking as many questions as possible of everyone.

Young journo competition
Previous article

Young journo competition

Next article

Gavin gives C6 thumbs up

Gavin gives C6 thumbs up
Load comments
The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under Plus

The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under

Joey Mawson made waves in the middle of the last decade, beating future Haas Formula 1 driver Mick Schumacher - among other highly-rated talents - to the 2016 German F4 title. A run in F1's feeder GP3 category only caused his career to stall, but now back in Australia Mawson's S5000 title success has set that to rights

May 8, 2021
The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing Plus

The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing

OPINION: The greed-driven push for a European Super League that threatened to tear football apart is collapsing at the seams. Motor racing's equivalent, the football-themed Superleague Formula series of 2008-11, was everything that the proposed ESL never could be

Apr 21, 2021
The F1 and Indy 'nearly man' that found contentment in Japan Plus

The F1 and Indy 'nearly man' that found contentment in Japan

Having had the door to F1 slammed in his face and come within three laps of winning the Indianapolis 500, the collapse of a Peugeot LMP1 shot meant Japan was Bertrand Baguette's last chance of a career. But it's one which he has grasped with both hands

Feb 27, 2021
The female all-rounder who arrived "too early" Plus

The female all-rounder who arrived "too early"

From Formula 3 to truck racing, Dakar and EuroNASCAR via a winning stint in the DTM, there's not much Ellen Lohr hasn't seen in a stellar racing career that highlights the merit in being a generalist. But she believes her career came too early...

Feb 17, 2021
How Radical's latest machines fare on track Plus

How Radical's latest machines fare on track

The lightweight sportscar manufacturer has not rewritten the rulebook with its latest machines, but the new SR3 XX and SR10 still provide a step forward on its previous successful models

Feb 8, 2021
The real-life racing rogues stranger than fiction Plus

The real-life racing rogues stranger than fiction

The forthcoming Netflix film linking the world of underworld crime and motorsport plays on a theme that isn't exactly new. Over the years, several shady figures have attempted to make it in racing before their dubious dealings caught up with them

Jan 31, 2021
How a GP is thriving in a COVID-free territory Plus

How a GP is thriving in a COVID-free territory

The New Zealand Grand Prix's mix of rising talent and big-name stars thrilled the crowds (yes, remember crowds?) assembled for the Toyota Racing Series meeting at Hampton Downs last weekend and left distant observers craving a repeat

Jan 26, 2021
How a much-changed Macau GP kept the party going Plus

How a much-changed Macau GP kept the party going

OPINION: The 67th edition of the Macau Grand Prix might have been a largely muted affair to the outside world without its international influx and star line-ups, another victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, but organisers deserve huge credit for keeping the party going

Nov 24, 2020