Chris Atkins Japan preview

Young Queensland rally driver Chris Atkinson will face one of the most important challenges of his short, but successful, career next week when he competes in the Japanese round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. The 23 year-old is hoping...

Young Queensland rally driver Chris Atkinson will face one of the most important challenges of his short, but successful, career next week when he competes in the Japanese round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

The 23 year-old is hoping that a big result in Japan will provide him with a chance of becoming the only Australian in the Junior World Rally Championship next season.

While there are a few options for the 2004 world championship, Atkinson would love to slot into a Suzuki works drive, which would be logical step in his dream of driving in the World Rally Championship.

Current Suzuki works driver Daniel Carlsson has picked up a World Rally Championship drive for at least eight rounds next season with Peugeot.

Atkinson will drive for Team Suzuki Works Techno with Suzuki Sport next week and will leave for Japan on Saturday -- ironically as the rest of the rally world is doing battle at Telstra Rally Australia in Perth.

Atkinson's navigator is his brother Ben and both of them live on the Gold Coast.

"There is certainly plenty to be gained if we produce a good result next week," said Atkinson.

"We have had our eye on a ride in the Junior World Championship for sometime and we would love to go there next year in a works car with Suzuki.

"A big result in Japan would certainly help our chances. Suzuki has given us a great opportunity this season and it would be great if we could maintain our relationship."

The Junior World Championship is likely to consist for seven or eight European rounds next season.

Atkinson was in Finland last week when Carlsson won Suzuki's first round for the world junior championship and liked what he saw.

"The world championship is just a whole new level and I want to be a part of it," said Atkinson.

"It would be fantastic if I could be over there flying the flag for Queensland and Australia on an international level.

"Australian rallying has grown in stature over the last couple of years and the next step is to have someone on the world scene. My goal is to achieve that on a junior level and then step up to the WRC."

Atkinson was the leading privateer in the Australian Rally Championship last year and stepped-up to the Asia Pacific Championship this season.

The youngster impressed plenty of critics when he won his class and finished 10th outright in the Rally of Canberra earlier this year. His pace was also very impressive in New Zealand after an early mishap.

Atkinson will compete in Japan before heading to the San Remo Rally as a spectator on October 1-5 and then to Thailand for the penultimate round of the Asia Pacific Championship at the end of October.

The final round of the championship will be in India from December 5-7.

-bam-

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Series RALLY