Atkinson, Gill ready for APRC opener in NZ
- 29th March 2012, 2:03pm
Driving a pair of Race Torque-prepared Skoda Fabia S2000s for Team MRF, Queenslander Atkinson, and India’s Gill, will start the event determined to push for victory against last year’s championship-winning Proton team.
Perth-based Race Torque, who have run Group N Mitsubishi Lancers in recent seasons, have taken delivery of the Czech-built Skodas, with both drivers eager to get behind the wheel for the first time.
“I’m really looking forward to working with the guys at Race Torque and driving the Skoda in New Zealand,” Atkinson said soon after his return to the World Rally Championship in Mexico.
“So far I’ve only driven the Proton in the Super 2000 class, so it will be interesting to hop into the Skoda and see how it compares. I was speaking to Sebastien Ogier about the car when I was in Mexico and he was saying it’s a fantastic car to drive.
“Until I drive it, it’s hard to compare it against what I’ve driven before, but it’s won the IRC series and a lot of rallies in Europe, so I’m sure it’s a great car.
“The team will have a pretty good idea on set-up for New Zealand, so the performance won’t be miles away.
“It’s a matter of getting in the car and getting a feeling for what works. But I’ve driven on those roads a lot before, and I won the rally last year, so hopefully I’ve got good speed there. Obviously it depends a bit on the weather and road conditions, but we’ll definitely be pushing flat out to come away with a win.
“Winning in Whangarei was the highlight of the championship for Stephane (Prevot) and I last year. To drive on the old WRC stages is a real thrill, and in the Super 2000 car it’s just amazing,” Atkinson said.
Team-mates Gaurav Gill and his Australian co-driver, Glenn Macnell, will receive equal number one status in Team MRF, with both crews pushing hard to start the year with maximum points.
Team MRF’s biggest opposition for the 2012 championship title is likely to come from Proton Motorsports, with last year’s series winner, Alister McRae, being joined by Sweden’s Per Gunnar Andersson this year.
Malaysian veteran, Karamjit Singh, heads a three-car Proton assault from the Cusco Rally Team, that are also likely to challenge for podium placings.
“The 2012 season has been a long time in the planning, but we’re extremely excited about getting to the first event and putting the new Skodas to the test,” Race Torque managing directing, Lane Heenan, said.
“The Skoda is one of the most competitive cars in the Super 2000 category, and I know both drivers are eager to get behind the wheel to see how fast the cars really are.
“We’ve had some shipping delays in getting the cars to New Zealand, but with drivers of the calibre of Chris and Gaurav, that shouldn’t be a problem.”
The team tested in New Zealand yesterday (Wednesday), with both drivers very happy with the new cars.
"The car was awesome," Atkinson said. "I was really happy with it and can't wait for the rally to start."
Team MRF are three-time Asia-Pacific Rally Champions, having taken the title with Germany’s Armin Kremer (2003), Finland’s Jussi Valimaki (2005), and Japan’s Katsu Taguchi in 2010.
Live results from the Rally of Whangarei can be viewed at www.rallywhangarei.co.nz
SUBSCRIBE BELOW TO READ THE FULL STORY
By clicking "Subscribe Now" you agree to receive news, offers and updates on RallySport Magazine. If you do not wish to receive marketing communications, you can update your preferences in My Account.
We will commence charging your payment method after the 7 day free trial expires. If you cancel after expiry of your trial, cancellation will take effect from the end of your current monthly subscription period. You will not be refunded any fees paid to RallySport Magazine unless otherwise set out in the terms and conditions.