Queenslander Chris Atkinson’s World Rally Championship career is back on track after being confirmed for Hyundai’s factory re-entry next year.
Atkinson’s recall coincides with Hyundai’s massive investment in returning to the pinnacle of rallying after a 10-year absence.
Australia’s most successful international rally driver will handle the shared second factory i20 alongside the previously named Juho Hanninen and Dani Sordo who was linked here with a Hyundai seat earlier this month.
Hyundai confirmed Atkinson and co-driver Stephane Prevot for the Aussie’s home event, Coates Hire Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour from September 11-14, while Sordo has been confirmed for the Monte Carlo rally next month.
Although not specified it is expected that Atkinson, Hanninen and Sordo will be signed for other events which play to their strengths particularly with Atkinson’s clear liking for the rougher gravel rallies such as Mexico.
“It’s fantastic. It’s a bit of an early Christmas present back in the WRC with Hyundai Motorsport,” Atkinson said.
“I haven’t done my home event for quite a few years. The last time I did it at home we were leading but unfortunately I retired so I’m looking forward to getting back there and having a good crack next year.”
Atkinson WRC Hyundai i20 344×218 Chris Atkinson secures WRC return with Hyundai
Shell named as Hyundai WRC major backer. The i20s will carry the logo of its high performance road car arm called ‘N’ Atkinson was one of three test drivers used by Hyundai to develop its pair of i20s this year along with Hanninen and Bryan Bouffier.
Hyundai has announced that Shell will be the major backer for the project in a multi-year deal while it has also used the WRC program to launch its new high performance division called ‘N’ with the single-letter insignia adorning the pair of i20s. Early last month Hyundai named the star Belgium driver Thierry Neuville, who claimed seven podiums for M-Sport this year, to compete in all WRC events as the team’s spearhead.
“Obviously we’ve been testing the cars this year and the car is coming along great,” Atkinson said.
“We are looking at getting into competitive action next season.
“We’ve got a great team of guys and with the support from Hyundai Australia and globally Hyundai is just charging forward and they are in the World Championship right now.”
Hyundai has conducted 15 tests in France, Germany, Spain and Finland since May with Atkinson and Hanninen heavily involved in the development work which has amounted to over 7000km.
Atkinson has had 75 starts in the WRC after debuting in 2004 before competing as the Subaru World Rally Team’s full-time driver from 2005-2008 alongside the 2003 WRC champion Petter Solberg.
Since then his opportunities have been limited with a mixed bag of one-off and semi-regular drives that have included Ken Block’s Monster Fiesta, Citroen and the Team Mini Portugal effort.
In 2012 Atkinson claimed his first major championship crown by winning the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.