The PROTON R3 Rally team has signed Chris Atkinson to contest \this year’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in a Proton Satria Neo S2000.
The 30-year-old Australian will join another household name in world rallying, Alister McRae, in what will be one of the strongest driver line-ups for the seven-round Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, which starts later this month with PROTON’s home event, the Malaysian Rally (24-25 April).
Atkinson brings a tremendous balance of youth and experience to the PROTON team – and he’s no stranger to rallying in the Asia-Pacific region. He made his name in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship with a debut class win in 2005, when he won the Super 1600 category on three events.
Queensland-born Atkinson has competed at the highest level of the sport, collecting 40 stage wins in the FIA World Rally Championship in four years with the Subaru team. A mark of Atkinson’s consistency comes in the 32 point-scoring finishes he has achieved from 67 starts in the WRC.
Atkinson is delighted to be joining PROTON for 2010. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to drive the next generation of rally car. I’m really excited about the year ahead. I’ve tested the Satria Neo S2000 briefly in Britain and it’s a very, very good car. I’m looking forward to working with PROTON and Alister [McRae] in the year ahead. To be honest, I can’t wait to get started on the first event,” he said.
PROTON R3 Rally team manager Chris Mellors added: “Chris Atkinson is going to bring another dimension to the team. He has shown what he can do at the highest level of this sport and it’s great news for PROTON that he’s joining us. We’re a real Asia-Pacific team now: a Malaysian manufacturer with a native Australian driving one car and a Scotsman living in Australia in the other. There’s no doubt, this is going to be an exciting season for PROTON and all concerned with the programme. But, right now, the focus is on getting Alister and Chris more time in the Satria and getting everything ready for our home round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.”
The Proton Satria Neo S2000 is the product of a highly successful alliance between Malaysian manufacturer PROTON and British motorsport preparation experts MEM. The car, which made its debut in the sport last season, has already run at the highest level, with McRae collecting second place on only his second event in the car (Rally of Scotland) in December last year. The forthcoming Malaysian Rally will be the team’s first appearance of 2010.
PROTON and MEM are no strangers to success, having won the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship in 2002, when Karamjit Singh guided the Proton Pert to a first ever world rally title for a Malaysian and a Malaysian manufacturer. A year later, there were more successes for Singh and the Proton MEM team when they added the 2003 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title to their world crown.
The FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship consists of seven rounds in seven countries, including Malaysia, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, Indonesia and China.