Subaru Australia and Les Walkden Rallying (LWR) are combining to help fast track the next Australian to follow Chris Atkinson into the World Rally Championship.

As part of the agreement, LWR will become Subaru Australia's official satellite team, running two Group N Production Class Spec C Impreza WRX STis alongside Subaru Rally Team Australia in the 2005 and 2006 Australian Rally Championship.

Excitingly, the 2005 Subaru Rally Challenge driver considered the most likely to get into the WRC based on age, speed and ability inside and outside the car, will get the opportunity to compete in the 2006 ARC in a left-hand drive LWR Impreza WRX STi.

For 2005, LWR will run 20 year-old Victorian Benni Tirant as number 2 driver. The number 1 driver is yet to be determined but most likely will be from Finland.

Tirant competed in the 2004 Subaru Rally Challenge in an Impreza RS, finishing second.

In 2006, the driver considered "the most likely" will get the number 2 drive with LWR.

This will allow drivers to maximise experience "on the left" - the format that dominates the World Rally Championship.

Subaru Australia General Manager Nick Senior said: "This is a major initiative that gives young rally drivers a genuine opportunity to build a long-term career in rallying.

"It offers every possibility of aspiring to the highest level, as demonstrated by Chris Atkinson.

"Subaru and LWR have committed to give an up-and-coming driver the number two position in the satellite team for a full season.

"If they perform well, there are several options, including elevation to number one in the satellite team or being promoted to Subaru Rally Team Australia."

"Les is a firm believer in providing opportunities for young drivers and working and nurturing them."

Mr Senior said criteria for Tirant's selection included his success in the Challenge series, good physical fitness and an assessment of his potential - factors that would also be applied to future satellite team number two drivers.

"Age is obviously very important. We need to get young drivers, because in reality they should be aching to get into a World Rally Car by the time they are 25-26. But you have got to be with the Subaru Rally Challenge.

"Chris Atkinson has demonstrated that given the right criteria you can make it to the top. This program will allow us to fast track, nurture and provide opportunities for the brightest talent in the country."

Launch of the satellite team follows the success of the Subaru Rally Challenge series introduced in 2004 under the initiative of Subaru Motorsport Manager Greg Foletta and Subaru Rally Challenge Coordinator Monica Zeaiter.

"Challenge series drivers in 2005 now have all the more reason to battle it out," added Senior. "Next year, one Challenge driver will get a spot in the satellite team provided they are dedicated, young, quick and physically fit, to potentially carve a career path to the highest level of rallying."

Les Walkden said: "We have an established relationship with Subaru, including working with Dean Herridge before he was promoted to the ranks of SRTA, so we're looking forward to developing that further."

Benni said: "It's a fantastic chance for me. It's great to be going into a left-hand drive car this early in my career. Hopefully it'll quickly become second nature and that gives me all the more opportunity to aim high."

He added: "I'm very grateful for the opportunity and look forward to performing to the best of my ability."

The satellite team will contribute Manufacturers points to Subaru in the Australian Rally Championship.