The Subaru World Rally Team has announced that it has re-signed Australia's brightest rallying star, Chris Atkinson, to partner Petter Solberg in the 2006 World Rally Championship. The 25-year-old will contest all 16 rounds of the series with current co-driver Glenn Macneall.
Chris' debut year in the FIA World Rally Championship showed his promise as one of its exciting, rising stars. In addition to the third position achieved in Rally Japan, fourth in Australia and seventh in New Zealand, Chris recorded 15 stage wins, the highest number of wins scored by a driver yet to win the World Championship. The result was remarkable as Chris had never competed in the majority of events.
The agreement continues Subaru's policy of seeking out young talented drivers and is part of a long-term partnership to develop Atkinson's potential into a future World Champion.
David Lapworth, Subaru World Rally Team Technical Director, commented, "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 take him to 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."
Atkinson commented: "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 number of stages won shows we've got the speed, which is very promising for the future. We've fitted in well with the team and with a year's experience behind us, I can't wait to see what we can do."
Subaru Manufacturer Principal Toshiya Azuma added, "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 and we hope to improve on the strong foundations we've established this year."