The longest-running round of the Australian Rally championship, coates Rally Queensland, has been congratulated on its 40th anniversary next week by its most famous winner, world rally star Chris Atkinson.

Atkinson won Rally Queensland in 2004 and just eight months later the young Gold Coaster contested his first event as a member of the Subaru World Rally Team, in Sweden.

He has become by far the most successful Australian to enter the World Rally Championship and currently holds third place in the driver standings.

On the eve of tackling this weekend’s Rally of Turkey in the new Subaru Impreza WRC2008 car, Atkinson sent a message to organisers and competitors in coates Rally Queensland, which will be run as round three of the Australian Rally Championship on 20-22 June.

“Greetings to all my friends and former fellow competitors at Rally Queensland,” he wrote.

“So much has happened for me since I won Rally Queensland in 2004, but it was always one of my favourite events.

“The roads used for the rally have a great mixture of everything, from extremely technical to amazing high speed sections.

“I loved the changing nature of the stages and for sure this challenging event helped set me on my path to the WRC.

“It’s great to see the event is still going strong and I wish everyone a successful 40th Rally Queensland.”

coates Rally Queensland is staged by Brisbane Sporting Car Club Ltd, of which Atkinson remains a member.

Despite having won the 2003 Asia-Pacific Super 1600 Championship, Atkinson was a relatively unknown 23-year-old when he stormed to victory in Rally Queensland in 2004.

He had started driving only in 2000. After co-driving for his brother Ben, the pair swapped seats for a round of the Queensland Rally Championship in their 28-year-old Toyota Corolla.

His rapid rise with faster cars and through tougher championships followed, until he has reached his current position as one of the world’s fastest drivers, seemingly on the brink of his first round win.

Brisbane Sporting Car Club Ltd has staged a Queensland round for every year but one of the Australian Rally Championship since it began in 1968, according to rally historian Tony Best.

The round adopted the name Rally Queensland in 1989.

In 1996 it moved its base from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast, where it is now one of the biggest annual sports events and an important contributor to the regional economy through competitor visitations and tourism promotion.

As well as Chris Atkinson, Rally Queensland winners have included many other famous names, such as Possum Bourne, Neal Bates, Simon Evans, Greg Carr, Colin Bond, Harry Firth, George Fury, Murray Coote and Ross Dunkerton.

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