Atkinsons change seats for Rally
THERE will be an Atkinson at the Repco Rally Australia this year but it will not be the driver everyone was hoping would be on the starting line.
Chris Atkinson, the Gold Coast driver who once finished as high as fourth in the World Rally Championships, is a confirmed non-starter for the Australian leg that will run through the Tweed and Kyogle Shires next month.
It had been hoped that the 29-year-old would be able to snare a seat with multiple Australian champion Neil Bates and one of his Toyotas but this seems to have fallen through.
Entries for the event closed last night and Rally officials confirmed Atkinson was not among the starters.
Atkinson had been part of the powerful Subaru factory team that withdrew from the WRC at the end of 2008 due to the world financial crisis.
Atkinson managed to have a few drives in a junior Citroen team earlier this year and had been desperately seeking financial support from sponsors so he could drive in the Australian leg.
However, Ben Atkinson, the younger brother of Chris, will contest the event.
Ben, a co-driver, will take his seat alongside Melbourne's Cody Crocker after the pair won the Rally Malaysia at the weekend.
Crocker, Australia's most successful current international rally driver, needs only five points from the remaining two rounds to clinch a record fourth title in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
The gritty drive in atrociously wet conditions aboard the Singapore-run Subaru Impreza showed Crocket and Atkinson will be capable of challenging the northern hemisphere's best in the Rally Australia.
Crocker and Atkinson will be one of two Australian crews eligible to score points in the Production World Rally Championship division of the event.
More than 15 other Australian teams are expected to contest either the P-WRC as non-points scoring entrants or the Australians-only national division.
The full list of entrants is expected to be released by the FIA this week.