Queensland’s Chris Atkinson will be eyeing off a rostrum result for Australia on his FIA World Rally Championship return when the series heads to Scandinavia for the Neste Oil Rally Finland next week.
The 31-year-old will be competing in the latest spec DS3 World Rally Car as driven by eight-times world champion Sebastien Loeb thanks to support from Australian backers Brakes Direct, Rallyschool.com.au and the Australian Motor Sport Foundation.
With Olympic spirit in the air, the livery Atkinson will sport in Finland has been designed in true Australian style as he continues to represent his country, mixing it with the world’s best.
“I’m stoked to be back in the World Rally Championship and behind the wheel of a car which has won the last eight world championships in succession,” commented Atkinson.
“Last time we competed in Finland we tasted champagne and I hope to replicate this next week and do Australia proud just as our athletes in London will be doing over the next month.
“Finland is the mecca of world rallying and I can’t wait to be back behind the wheel, hitting massive crests at over 200km/h in front the hundreds of thousands of fans who head out to the event.”
Atkinson will compete for the Qatar World Rally Team with regular driver Nassar Al-Attiyah absent due to commitments representing his country in the Men’s Skeet shooting competition at the London Olympics.
Leaving his Gold Coast base last weekend, Atko has been familiarising himself with the warm Finnish climate and his new DS3 WRCar thanks to a full-day of testing this week before the real action gets underway next Thursday.
Currently leading the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship with the Skoda MRF team and having contested WRC Rally Mexico in March as teammate to Ken Block in the Monster World Rally Team, ‘Atko’ sits in great shape to take it to the best in world rallying in Finland.
“To have a full day test this week has lifted my confidence sky high and I’m hanging out in eager anticipation to get out and drive what are truly some of the most incredible roads on the planet,” Atkinson added.
“I’ve taken heaps away from the test and feel a lot more comfortable with the car and my engineer. One lapse in concentration in Finland and you’re gone so I’m definitely heading into the event a lot more relaxed now.
“I have to thank so many fans, friends and family back home who have helped me get back to the to the top of the game, plus support from some great Australian companies and the Australian Motor Sport Foundation for getting us over to Finland.”
Rally Finland is one of the most intense and insane sporting events on the planet. It has been dubbed the "Grand Prix on gravel roads" due to its high speeds and blind crests which sees cars constantly flying through the air at incredible speeds.
The event is among the largest annually organised public events in the Nordic countries, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators each year. It has been run every year since the World Rally Championship’s inception in 1973 except for 1995 due to the brief round rotation scheme from 1994 to 1996.
Chris ‘Atko’ Atkinson - WRC Stats
WRC starts - 68
WRC podiums - 6
WRC stage finishes - 41
WRC points finishes - 32
WRC best Rally Finland result - 3rd (2008)