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Subaru rally driver, Chris Atkinson, is in Turkey this week, ready to take on the thirteenth round of the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship secure in the knowledge that his drive for Subaru World Rally Team in 2007 has been confirmed.

Atkinson, who officially signed last week with SWRT for another season, is hoping to build on that good news with a top five result across the rugged Turkish roads.

It is the Queenslander’s second outing in the event. Last year Atkinson and co-driver Glenn Macneall had a dramatic debut, with the Australian pair forced to retire on the first Leg after ripping a rear wheel off on a rock. They returned for Legs two and three to complete the route and build experience.

With his immediate future now assured, Atkinson can’t wait to tackle the Turkish roads again behind the wheel of the Subaru Impreza WRC 2006.

“It’s certainly a good feeling knowing that we are here with a clear path ahead for the rest of this season and throughout 2007,” Atkinson said.

“It is a clear vote of confidence by the team in what we have achieved across the past two seasons and what they think we can do in the future.”

“My mind is now free free just to focus on the immediate, and that is doing our very best in Turkey.

“No doubt it's going to be another difficult weekend as it’s a tricky rally with very varied conditions.

“Last time we had rain, hard-packed roads, some loose stuff, slow bits and flat-out sections. This year I’m expecting a bit of everything and changing conditions again. It’s a fairly entertaining rally.

“Coming so soon after Cyprus I think it’s going to be a difficult rally, too. In Cyprus we weren’t expecting a fantastic result, we were realistic about our chances, and that’s what we got.

“But this week I’m hoping to keep things more consistent and just hang in there. Going at the same pace we were running at in Cyprus I think a top-five finish is possible - we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Since Rally Cyprus, Atkinson and Macneall have spent three days in Sicily doing development work on the Impreza.

Subaru World Rally Sporting Director, Luis Moya, is hopeful that the hard work put in by the team since the mid-season break will start to show.

“In Turkey the main objective for Petter, Chris and the team is to put both cars in the top six,” Moya said. “That said, of course we’ll do our best to get a better result if the opportunity is there.”

“Since the last rally our engineering team has continued its work on the car’s performance and we have held a five-day development test in Sicily. We’re making steady progress and are doing everything possible to get the team fully competitive again as soon as possible.”

Rally Turkey will again be based in the town of Kemer, 40km south of the holiday resort of Antalya. The event will begin with a colourful ceremonial start in Antalya’s Cumhuriyet Square on Thursday evening, with the rallying proper taking place over the following three days.

The event’s harsh terrain should have a familiar feel. Run high in the Anatolian mountains, over a variety of broken gravel roads, the stages are broadly similar to those used a fortnight ago on the preceding event in Cyprus.

However, there are some important differences. Firstly, the speeds in Turkey are nowhere near as slow as in Cyprus. Secondly, the stages are more varied, with several water-splashes and a range of interesting corners making them a favourite with spectators.

Turkey has also had its date on the calendar altered for 2006, meaning that conditions should be significantly different to last year’s. Its new slot, four months later and right at the end of the summer, makes rain a distinct possibility, as well as fog over some of the mountain tracks.

The rally comprises 19 special stages and a total competitive distance of 351.01 kilometres. Friday’s first Leg is the longest of the rally, with 152 stage kilometres, including a night-time Superspecial in the grounds of Akdeniz University.

Leg two brings seven more mountain stages and another visit to the Superspecial, while Sunday’s three stages make it the shortest Leg of the rally. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp in Kemer at 1306hrs (2006hrs AEST) on Sunday.

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