Christopher Atkinson
Date of birth: 30 November 1979
Place of birth: Bega, New South Wales, Australia
Lives: Gold Coast, Australia / Monaco
Marital status: Single
First rally: 2000
Hobbies: Running, gym–training, jet–skiing

Chris is the first Australian to become a full–time WRC driver, having joined the Subaru World Rally Team for a full campaign in 2005. During the last two seasons he has progressed from raw rookie to setting fastest stage times and leading rallies comfortably. The next step for him is an outright rally win, something the 27–year–old from New South Wales has his sights firmly set on this season.

From Speed Freak To Stockbroker
It’s fair to say that rallying is in Chris Atkinson’s blood. As a youngster in Bega, New South Wales, he spent much of his time watching his father, John, competing in the New South Wales Rally Championship. From that point on he became hooked on the sport. A born competitor, Chris excelled at a variety of other sports including football, running, rugby and tennis, but was undoubtedly happiest when travelling under power and preferably at speed. As a teenager, Chris spent much of his time enjoying the thrills and spills of motocross riding until 1995, when he was awarded an academic scholarship to Bond University and the dirt –track action was put on hold. On successfully completing his commerce degree, majoring in finance and accounting, Chris ’s future as a stockbroker looked assured. And it was. Until he decided he wanted to go rallying.

A Family Affair Chris’s first attempts at rally driving were from the co–driver’s seat, navigating for his brother, Ben, aboard a 1972 Toyota Corolla on regional championship events in Australia. However, after only a couple of rallies, Chris decided he wanted a shot behind the wheel himself, so the pair swapped seats for the final round of the 2000 Queensland Rally Championship. Although it was only meant to be a one–off experiment, Chris proved to be rather handy as a driver and the brothers stuck with their new disciplines. Lessons at the Rick Bates Rally School followed, as well as more experience at club level, before his first major rally on the opening round of the 2001 Queensland Rally Championship. Remarkably, and with less than 80km of competitive driving under his belt, Atkinson was first in his class and third overall. That instant success convinced him to, despite his lack of experience in the sport, tackle the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) the following year.

Championship Debut
At the wheel of a privately–entered Group N Mitsubishi Lancer, Chris impressed in his first full season of competition in the ARC. He finished inside the top ten in Group N and well inside the overall top 20 on every round he contested. During the year, Chris set second–fastest stage times on two occasions which, considering his age and experience, gave an indication of his tremendous potential. In one of the most competitive Australian Rally Championships ever, the Atkinson boys finished ninth outright and were crowned Privateer Champions. This performance brought Chris to the attention of Suzuki, who offered him the opportunity to drive one of its Super 1600 Ignis models with the Suzuki Sport team in the 2003 Asia–Pacific Rally Championship.

Chris rewarded the team with a class win in the opening round of the championship in Canberra. Next came a second place in New Zealand, a second in Japan and two remarkable wins in Thailand and India. Atkinson was duly crowned Asia–Pacific Super 1600 Champion, but perhaps of more significance was his position of fifth overall, across all classes, in the Asia–Pacific Championship – ahead of many more powerful, four–wheel–drive, turbo–charged cars.

Making an impact
The success story continued in 2004, when Atkinson was the dominant driver in the Australian Rally Championship, winning three of the six rounds. His success wasn't limited to the Australian shores as he successfully defended his Asia–Pacific Super 1600 title and showed exceptional pace on rounds of the World Rally Championship in New Zealand, Finland and Japan. In November, and with new co&ndash ;driver Glenn Macneall sitting alongside him, Atkinson finished his year on a high by winning the Group N category and finishing fifth overall on his first attempt at the 2005 WRC finale, Rally Australia. That astonishing fifth place was the highest finish by a Group N entrant in the 17–year history of the event.

His achievements were rewarded by a contract from the Subaru World Rally Team for 2005. He made his debut on possibly the most specialised event on the calendar – Sweden – but despite having rarely seen snow he set a fourth–fastest stage time. Plenty of fastest times followed, but it was on the events where he had some previous experience that Chris really shone. The Rally Japan was familiar from the Asia–Pacific Championship and he duly took his first podium. Chris was in the lead of Rally Australia when he suffered a freak steering–arm breakage, but still finished fourth. He proved his potential throughout 2005 by setting the fourth highest number of fastest stage times. The only people to beat him were world champions Petter Solberg, Sebastien Loeb and Marcus Gronholm!

He made more progress during 2006 and finished 9th in the drivers’ championship compared to 12th the previous year. He drove brilliantly to lead the early stages of Rally Australia once again, and his accomplished performances on other events meant it was easy to forget that he is still less experienced than most of his rivals. Some of the rallies, such as Monte Carlo, he was tackling for the first time.

"We’ll be pushing hard with a focus on consistency this season, aiming for as many points as possible. Consistently scoring a good number of points from each rally is where I want to be, starting the year strongly. Just because there is a new car coming doesn’t mean we can back off. We approach every rally as an individual event." Chris Atkinson

Rallying is in Chris’ blood. Having tried most other sports and put them all on hold for an academic degree, he returned to rallying after the need for speed proved just too great a pull. The Australian excelled at rugby, football, running and tennis whilst a kid growing up in New South Wales, but from an early age developed a love of rallying after watching his father compete in the New South Wales Championship.

In 1995, he was awarded an academic scholarship to Bond University, putting his motocross thrills and spills on hold to complete a commerce degree. With a clear path into the world of stockbroking laid before him, Chris opted for a work environment that involvedpedals and a steering wheel, and his return to motorsport was sealed.

Starting as a co–driver alongside his brother, he soon realised he was happiest behind the wheel, and the brothers swapped places permanently. Chris clinched the Asia Pacific Super 1600 Championship in 2003 and 2004, and signed with the Subaru World Rally Team at the end of 2004 to make him the first full–time Australian driver in the WRC. An early indication of his maturity and potential, finishing fifth overall in a Group N car on his WRC debut at Rally Australia is a record that still stands, the highest finish in the event’s 17 years on the WRC calendar.

Having led in Australia in 2006, finished just shy of the podium on Rally Japan the same year, and now with numerous stage wins under his belt, Chris enters this exciting third season with the team hungry for success.

Career history
2007: Seventh place, World Rally Championship
2006: Ninth place, World Rally Championship
2005: Atkinson made his SWRT debut in Rally Sweden, also his first ever experience of a snow rally. On a year of learning many
of the WRC’s unique surfaces, he shone on the events he had experience of, achieving his first podium on Rally Japan. He
finished 12th in the World Rally Championship.
2004: Atkinson won three of the six rounds in the Australian Rally Championship, finishing second overall. He also won the
Asia–Pacific Super 1600 Championship for a second time. He won in Group N in the WRC round in Australia, and was fifth overall,
the highest Group N finish in the event’s 17 year history. To cap the year off, Atkinson signed with the Subaru World Rally
2003: Atkinson debuted in the Asia–Pacific Super 1600 Championship, winning the first round in Canberra and going on to win
the championship. His performance also saw him fifth overall in the Asia Pacific Championship.
2002: Entered in Group N, Atkinson won in his first full season in the Australian Privateers’ Cup
2001: Atkinson competed in his first major rally, in the Queensland Rally Championship. With fewer than 80km of experience, he won
his class and finished third overall.
2000: Atkinson took the wheel of a 1972 Toyota Corolla from brother Ben for the final round of the Queensland Rally Championship,
having spent a few rallies in the co–driver’s seat

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