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Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson would like to create history at the 2006 Rally Australia by becoming the first Australian to finish on the podium in the local round of the World Rally Championship (WRC).

Rally Australia made its debut on the WRC calendar in 1989, but this year marks the final running of the event in its current location before moving to Queensland in 2008.

Atkinson has been impressive in his first two outings in Western Australia. In 2004, driving a Group N Impreza WRX STI, the Queenslander took class honours and finished fifth outright. He then went one better in 2005, driving the Impreza WRC to fourth in his debut year for the Subaru World Rally Team - equaling Ross Dunkerton's 1993 record as the highest placed Australian finisher. He set the fastest time on nine of the 26 stages along the way.

But Atkinson and his team have endured a difficult year, and he is aware that the work on improving the performance of the current Impreza WRC2006 is still work in progress.

“Of course it’s always special to compete on your home event, and the rally in Perth is one of my favourites,’ Atkinson said.

“We were fast here last year, but this time we have to be realistic as we still have some work to do to get the whole package with the car working together again.”

“We came away from Turkey feeling positive about the way the development program was shaping up, and the changes that have been made so far are encouraging. We’ll just have to wait and see what we can do this week.”

“My motivation is always the same, to get a good result, and that’s what I’m aiming to do.”

Atkinson partners the 2003 Rally Australia winner, Petter Solberg, in the SWRT campaign in Perth.

SWRT Sporting Director, Luis Moya, says his team’s objective is to give the drivers good, reliable cars that will enable them to push consistently throughout the rally.

“In terms of finishing positions, I feel we should be able to get both cars into the top five. As long as they run reliably and keep out of trouble a podium finish is not out of the question for either driver. On this rally, consistency is key.”

Atkinson will again be joined by regular co-driver, Glenn Macneall.

The competitive action starts on Thursday 26 October with two passes through the head-to-head Superspecial at Gloucester Park before the regular stages start on Friday.

Comprising 348 competitive kilometres and 26 stages, the rally will be based around a single service park on the banks of the Swan River in centre of the city.

The longest stage is the 29.93km Helena North test, which is run twice on Leg three, while the shortest is the Perth City Super Special, which is run six times. The wining car will cross the finish ramp back in Perth on Sunday at 1430hrs (1730 Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT)).

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