Ben Atkinson has enjoyed a successful year of rallying – winning the Asia Pacific Rally Championship with Cody Crocker for the third time, as well as the Asian Cup. He also did a number of events in the ARC with Nathan Quinn. Ben sums up his year.
How would you sum up your year of rallying? It has been a very successful year. Cody and I won the Asia Pacific Rally Championship with the MotorImage Rally Team for the third time along with the Asia Cup, winning four events in the process. It has, however, not been easy and there were a couple of events where things did not go exactly to plan, where we got caught in a downpour in Japan and the puncture in Indonesia, both of which cost us points in those events. I have also competed with Nathan Quinn in two ARC events with a second placing in Coffs Harbour. Doing a couple of ARC’s has been quite enjoyable and Nathan has done a good job in both events and is really improving each time he gets in the car.
What improvements have you achieved throughout the year (both to the car and personally)? The car is pretty much identical to what we ran in 2007 and being at the end of the life cycle, development has pretty well stopped. Personally I always continue to try and improve what I do as a co-driver. You are forever learning in rallying and you can’t beat the experience of just doing the events and coming across different scenarios.
What was your favourite event this year, and why? New Zealand is hard to beat with such fantastic roads and when the car, driver and co-driver are all working as one on those roads, it really is fantastic. China though is a highlight as, after the first day, we were just over 1 ½ minutes behind the leader due to a gearbox problem. The APRC title was a done deal but to win the Asia Cup and the event, we had to beat Hiroshi who was leading the event and was equal on points in the Cup. To win the event by 1.2 seconds was fantastic and to spend the day going flat out was something that we had not had to do for a while.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date? Initially Ian Stewart’s pace notes schools at the Brisbane Sporting Car Club were a big help, just teaching the basics of co-driving. Also my parents who, without their support, Chris and I would not have got to where we are in Australian rallying, and Chris himself, who was very determined to do the best job possible and that included making sure he had the best pace notes that he could. Then it would have to be Cody who is just a professional at how he goes about rallying and with whom I have achieved some great results. As I said before, I am always trying to improve what I do and as a co-driver that feedback has to come from the driver, as well as watching how other co-drivers go about things.
What has been your best achievement so far in rallying? It would have to be three APRC titles in a row with Cody which is a feat only matched by Kenneth Eriksson. There are a few drivers, including Possum, who have won three APRC titles but only two that have won them in a row.
What’s the hardest thing about rallying? It would have to be tidying the pace notes. It is one of the unseen parts of a co-driver’s job and at times can mean some pretty late nights getting the notes prepared after recce.
And the best thing? There is camaraderie in rallying in the team and between teams which really helps make rallying what it is. Also, the satisfaction of winning an event and doing the best you can.
Do you have any funny stories from this year’s events that you can share with us? One of the best would have to be the flock of ducks we came across on recce in China. I think the attached pictures say the rest. Also the fireworks that are available in China. The after-rally fireworks competition is getting a bit of a reputation. It takes place on the roundabout in front of the hotel. As you can see from the photos, there are some pretty serious fireworks.
What are your plans for next year? The APRC with the MotorImage Rally Team and Cody. There might also be some more events with Nathan, depending on his plans.
How about your plans for 2010 and beyond? You can always dream…… but we continue to work on the PWRC.