SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM SIGNS ATKINSON FOR 2006
Subaru World Rally Team has announced the re-signing of Australia's brightest rallying star, Chris Atkinson, for 2006.
The 25 year-old will partner Petter Solberg in the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship, contesting all 16 rounds of the series with current co-driver Glenn Macneall.
Chris' debut year at the world level showed his promise as one of the exciting, rising stars and he became the most successful Australian to have competed in the championship.
Chris was the first Australian in 13 years to step onto a WRC podium when he finished third in Rally Japan, equalling the best-ever finish by an Australian in the WRC.
In addition he was fourth in Australia and seventh in New Zealand, and recorded 15 stage wins.
Only Sebastien Loeb, Marcus Gronholm and Petter Solberg, all previous World Champions, scored more stage wins. The result was even more remarkable as Chris had never competed in the majority of events.
Chris, from the Gold Coast, said: "It's fantastic to have the opportunity to stay with Subaru and I'm looking forward to showing once more the speed and the results we've demonstrated in the last part of this year.
"You can't expect too much in your first year and the fact that we're fourth in the stage wins shows we've got the speed, which is very promising for the future.
"We fit in well with the team and with a year's experience behind us, I can't wait to see what we can do."
Subaru Australia Managing Director Nick Senior said: "After crossing the globe in 2005, Chris has achieved a remarkable record and is regarded as a phenomenon in world motorsport.
"It's no secret that in recent weeks Chris has been courted by leading World Rally teams.
"We're delighted that in 2006 he will once again drive for Subaru World Rally Team.
"He's a great ambassador for the brand, but also for his sport and, importantly, his country, and we look forward to sharing in his success in 2006."
The agreement continues Subaru's policy of seeking out young talented drivers and is part of a long-term partnership to develop Chris' potential into a future World Rally Champion.
David Lapworth, Subaru World Rally Team Technical Director, said: "Chris has earned his stripes this year and has been awarded this contract entirely on merit.
"He has shown enormous potential and has proved that he has that talent to achieve the next level in performance.
"His speed was apparent from day one and we can see that he has the maturity to achieve good, strong finishes -- his outstanding results in Japan and Australia clearly demonstrate this.
"The move is part of a long-term plan to develop Chris at a world-class level and he is taking a step along the path followed by previous Subaru World Champions, such as Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Petter Solberg.
"Chris has had a very professional attitude and if he continues to improve at the same rate he will be a World Championship contender of the future."
Subaru Manufacturer Principal Toshiya Azuma said: "I'm very happy that Chris is continuing with Subaru next year.
"He has proved to be one of the most promising young talents in the Championship and we're confident he can achieve even better results with a year's experience under his belt.
"Chris and Petter will be a formidable line-up in 2006 and we hope to improve on the strong foundations we've established this year."