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Spectators at Rally Queensland will have a rare chance to see Australia’s most successful international rally driver Chris Atkinson in action when he makes a special appearance at the Sunshine Coast event next month.

In a major boost for the 8-10 May international rally, Atkinson will drive the official “0” car, which will run ahead of a field of more than 70 competitors.

He also has accepted the role of Rally Queensland Ambassador, Event Director Errol Bailey announced today.

Rally Queensland will host round two of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), round four of the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) and rounds two and three of the Queensland Rally Championship (QRC) - all series Atkinson contested before graduating full-time to the World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2005.

Drivers representing China, Japan, India, Singapore, New Zealand, New Caledonia and Australia will compete at Rally Queensland this year.

After his Subaru World Rally Team withdrew from rallying at the end of 2008, Atkinson switched to the Citroen Junior Team and finished an impressive fifth in this year’s opening round in Ireland.

His best result on an individual WRC event is second, which he achieved last year in Mexico and Argentina.

The Monaco-based Gold Coaster is currently visiting home while he prepares his next moves in the WRC, including a potential crack at Repco Rally Australia in the New South Wales Northern Rivers next September.

At Rally Queensland, he will drive a Rallyschool.com.au-prepared Subaru Impreza with veteran international co-driver Iain Stewart, performing an important safety role in running ahead of the field at near-competition speed to ensure the course is clear and safe.

The roads will include some he drove on his last appearance at Rally Queensland in 2004, when he won the event.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back in a car and going over some roads that bring back great memories of my early career. I’m sure I’ll also catch up with a few old rivals at the service park at Imbil Showgrounds,” Atkinson said.

Event Director Errol Bailey said Chris Atkinson’s involvement was a great boost in Rally Queensland’s first year as an international event.

“Although Chris is now a World Rally star he remains a loyal member of the Brisbane Sporting Car Club, which stages Rally Queensland, and to an event on which he cut his teeth as a driver,” Mr Bailey said.

“We are lucky to have him at a time when his focus is very much on his international career. His generous gesture should attract many more spectators who will be keen not to only to see him drive but also to show their appreciation of his achievements.”

Chris Atkinson will attend the traditional ceremonial start of Rally Queensland from 5.30pm to 9.30pm on Friday night 8 May at the Nambour Showgrounds..

He will then drive the full rally course, including past the spectator points, in the Imbil State Forest south-west of Gympie on Saturday and Sunday.

Spectator information on Rally Queensland is available at www.sidewaysinthesun.com.

Pic: Peter Whitten

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