Started rallying with Toyota Corolla
2002: Drives Mitsubishi, Australian Privateers Cup Champion
2003: Drives Subaru and Suzuki, Asia Pacific Super 1600 Champion
2004: Drives Subaru and Suzuki, His WRC debut in New Zealand, 5th in Australia, Asia Pacific Super 1600 Champion
2005: Contract with Subaru, 3rd in Japan
2006: Drives Subaru
|Date of Birth:
30/11/1979 at Bega
Marital status: Single
World Drivers' Champion:
Chris Atkinson was born in Bega, New South Wales spending much of his early years watching his father, John, compete in the New South Wales Rally Championship. Throughout his rallying days John claimed a number of Championships, including two New South Wales crowns. As a kid Chris played almost every competitive sport available, from soccer to running to rugby and tennis, before finding the need for speed on a motocross bike. Throughout his teenage years Chris "tore up the dirt track" on two wheels before several injuries had his parents ensure his focus returned to his schoolwork.
In 1997 Chris was awarded an academic scholarship to Bond University, completing a commerce degree. Majoring in finance and accounting he worked as a stock broker on finishing his degree, before turning his focus to a career in rallying. Chris' brother Ben began rallying in the late nineties and after two years of watching on the sidelines Chris decided to give co-driving with his brother a shot. After only a couple of events in the co-driver’s seat Chris traded places with his brother. He made his rally debut aboard a 1972 Toyota Corolla in the final round of the 2000 Queensland Rally Championship for what was planned to be for only one rally, but turned into a long-term agreement between the brothers, which has only ended recently.
In only his first major rally and with less than 80km of competition under his belt, Chris achieved an incredible 1st in Class and 3rd outright in round 1 of the 2001 Queensland Rally Championship. This led to the decision to compete in the Australian Rally Championship, despite it being his first year in the sport. Advice on the importance of learning pacenotes from former Australian Champion Ed Ordynski was a major factor in taking this big leap. Chris' results in his first year of rallying turned more than a few heads. He was inside the top 10 in Group N and well inside the outright top 20 at every round of the ARC in which he competed. Chris also set stage times as high as fifth outright in his debut season, indicating that he had tremendous potential considering his age and experience.
At the 2002 Rally of Canberra, a round of the Asia Pacific Championship, Chris and co-driver Ben stunned the rallying community, climbing as high as fourth outright before mechanical failure forced them out of the event on the final day. This was against some of the best drivers from across New Zealand, Asia and Australia. Throughout the year they became a serious contender in the Australian Rally Championship and proved it by setting second-fastest stage times on two occasions and finishing in the top 10 on numerous occasions. They achieved this despite campaigning as a privateer entry and competing against drivers with years of experience, in possibly the most competitive Australian Rally Championship ever. In the end the Atkinson boys finished ninth outright and were crowned Privateer Champion. It was this result that encouraged the Suzuki factory team to test Chris for future commitments in Asia and Europe.
Despite only rallying for two years, Chris was given the opportunity to drive a Super 1600 car for the SWT with Suzuki Sport team in the 2003 Asia Pacific Rally Championship. The faith team principal and famous Japanese driver, Monster Tajima, put in this young Australian driver was rewarded with a class win in the opening round of the championship in Canberra. Drama struck in the following round in New Zealand after Chris showed impressive car speed but ran off the road and got bogged on the opening day. He did recover to finish second in the Super 1600 class on the second leg and won the final leg of the rally in the class. He went on to finish second in class at the Rally of Hokkaido in Japan before winning his class in the last two rounds in Thailand and India to be crowned Asia Pacific Super 1600 Champion. Amazingly he was also fifth outright in the championship, defeating many higher-powered 4WD turbo cars.
In 2004 he dominated the Australian Championship, winning an amazing three rounds from the six events. With these victories he also set the fastest stage time on nearly double the number of occasions to his nearest rival. His success during the year wasn’t only limited to the domestic competition, with Atkinson going on to successfully defend his Asia Pacific Super 1600 Championship. He also stunned the world’s best drivers in the four rounds of the World Championship that he competed in throughout New Zealand, Finland, Japan and Australia. With his brother, Ben as his Co-driver, they made their World Rally Championship debut in New Zealand outpacing many of his more experienced rivals before a minor accident ended their event on the second stage of the final day. When he traveled to compete in the Rally Finland, he took the challenge to the best Group N rally competitors in the world and set stage times well beyond any expectations. Four time World Rally Champion Tommi Makinen said after the event that Atkinson was really flying and he has what it takes to be one of the best. In Rally Australia it shone brightest what kind of maturity, determination and outright speed Atkinson has. Forced to overcome adversity when he suffered numerous problems throughout the event that hampered his performance, and could well have ended a lesser determined driver’s event, Atkinson was simply brilliant, going on to finish fifth outright and win the Group N category.It was this performance that was the icing on the cake for 2004 and rewarded Chris with an opportunity to compete at the highest level of rallying.
For the season 2005 he was aiming for to compete either Production Car or Junior World Rally Championship, but was being offered a drive with the Subaru World Rally Team to partner 2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg in the Subaru Impreza WRC. He contested all rounds of the WRC except the first event in Monte Carlo, and was co-driven by fellow Australian Glenn MacNeall. The young Australian had never competed in a WR car or rallied on snow before he made his debut in Sweden. He rose from 22nd place (after visiting a ditch on SS1) to ninth place before going off the road and losing 13 minutes on the final morning. Although Atkinson eventually finished an unrepresentative 19th, he had made his mark. In New Zealand he was setting the fastest stage time on two of the eight stages held to be in fifth position at the end of leg one. He finished in an exceptional seventh position in only his third event aboard a WRC-class car. In Japan he was able to take his first ever podium finishing third and in his home event in Australia he placed fourth being the fastest driver of the event. During the season he showed his promises and exceptional speed, but made also many mistakes. Atkinson scored only 13 points during his first campaign, but 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.
In 2006 Atkinson will continue to drive for Subaru World Rally Team. He will contest all 16 rounds of the series with current co-driver Glenn Macneall.
Chris Atkinson is proving to be Australia’s best chance to become the country’s first regular WRC driver and World Rally Champion. Despite only competing for five years in the sport, it is the achievements, accolades and maturity during this time that are earning him the highest of praise from many at the top of world rallying.