Chris Atkinson to drive MINI
- 24th June 2009, 11:32am
World-renowned Australian Rally star Chris Atkinson will saddle up in a John Cooper Works MINI Racecar at the third round of the 2009 MINI Challenge in three weeks time at the brand new Townsville layout.
â€œIâ€™m really excited about it,â€ says the man who is one of the international rally worldâ€™s hottest properties and shares his time between home bases in the Gold Coast and Monaco, â€œIâ€™ve driven a MINI once before, but never in a race situation.â€
28-year-old Atkinson shot to prominence after signing with the 2005 Subaru WRC factory team when they were impressed by his sensational debut in a lower category in the Australian leg of the 2004 Championship in his privately funded Group N Subaru Impreza.
Since then heâ€™s become a high profile and respected member of the elite family of Rally and will return to Europe for competition as early as a day or two after the Townsville event.
â€œIâ€™ve been hearing a lot about MINI Challenge and a lot about the new Townsville circuit,â€ he conceded over the phone today, â€œso when the chance came up to try them both out I didnâ€™t hesitate.â€
Atkinson will drive the â€œUber Starâ€ MINI Challenge car (prepared by the Stillwell MINI Garage team) at Townsville where the new twin-driver format will make its debut.
In 2008 Atkinson enjoyed his best season on the WRC (World Rally Championship) to date with a spectacular 5th overall and runner up spots at the Corona Rally in Mexico and Rally Argentina.
Since debuting in 2004 Chris has amassed six podium finishes â€“ five of which he mastered last year!
He is the only Australian, in the 36-year history of the FIA World Rally Championship, to secure a full time manufacturerâ€™s drive.
His immediate â€œChallengeâ€ now is to tackle the might of the 2009 MINI Challenge field at Townsville on July 10-12, 2009.
â€œIâ€™ve probably got the best round to come in without any MINI experience,â€ he explains, â€œat least weâ€™ll all be new to the track there. Nobody has home track experience.â€
Atkinsonâ€™s prowess on dirt and tarmac (often combined) is well documented, but his road racing experience is limited to only two events â€“ one at the Nurbugring 24 Hour in Germany and the Bathurst 12 Hour here in Australia.
â€œI think if anything my 4WD experience will help in the front wheel drive MINI car,â€ Atkinson believes, â€œsometimes there are a few parallels between 4WD and front wheel drive. Iâ€™ll have that on my side anyway and hopefully that compensates for my lack of consistent road racing experience.â€
Chris Atkinson will be the third high profile sporting identity (in addition to AFL personality Sam Newman and Winter Olympics Gold Medallist Steven Bradbury) to take â€œthe MINI Challengeâ€ and drive the UBER Star car as a bonafide contender at the inaugural Townsville event on July 10-12, 2009.
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