Nancy Knapp Schilke
Australian’s Chris Atkinson returned for one-off FIA World Rally Championship events already this season, and as of today, ‘Atko’ will finish out the season as the main driver for Team MINI Portugal. There are five rounds yet to be contested, starting with Rallye Deutschland next weekend.
The 32 year old rally driver from Queensland will test the John Cooper Works MINI before heading to Germany. Atkinson is looking forward to his first time in the cockpit of the factory-supported MINI.
“MINI has provided me with an awesome opportunity to return to the World Championship and I’m stoked to be back as a lead driver for a great manufacturer and for the remainder of the 2012 season,” said the Aussie.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what the MINI is made of in Germany.
Atkinson has not been idle over the past years, after Subaru left the World Rally stage. He has been one of the top stars in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, and currently the points leader. His two WRC rallies this year were in Rally Mexico where he scored the first ever-ever stage win for the Monster World Rally Team in their Ford Fiesta RS. ‘Atko’ recently took on Rally Finland in the Qatar World Rally Team’s Citroen DS3.
He landed the MINI ride due to the departure of Armindo Araujo.
Atkinson has the needed experience that the team needs, and that was proven in Finland, where he set top times, despite not having contested the rally in four years. While no word was mentioned on his co-driver, Stephane Prevot, it was that he would not be alongside ‘Atko’ in the MINI. Rally drivers and their navigators form a tight bond which is critical in chasing the top of the leaderboard.
“This will be my first time driving for WRC Team MINI Portugal and the MINI John Cooper Works WRC but from the information I have gathered I’m really looking forward to seeing what the MINI is made of in Germany,” Atkinson said.
In his WRC career, his best finish in the title chase was fourth; he has competed for Subaru, Ford and Citroen and now he gets to see how the MINI handles on the demanding WRC stages. ‘Atko’ smiled as he stated: “The car looks great and the MINI brand is all about one big, fun-loving family which is just how I like to roll back on the Gold Coast.”