Atkinson says he can still drive fast

Former World Rally Championship star Chris Atkinson says his victory on last week’s International Rally of Whangarei is proof of his ability to return to the sport’s highest level.

Atkinson drove for the Subaru World Rally Team for four years before the Japanese firm departed the WRC at the end of 2008. The Queenslander switched to a Proton for the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship for the last two seasons – and now holds a comprehensive lead after winning three from four rounds of the series.

Atkinson, who scored six podiums in his time with Subaru, took a close victory over Production Car World Rally Championship leader Hayden Paddon on the event, which uses stages featured on Rally New Zealand.

“Anybody who thinks I can’t drive anymore should think again,” the 30-year-old said. “This has been a fantastic season so far with Proton; the car’s really come good this year, thanks to some fantastic work from the team, and I feel I’m driving better than ever.

“Driving a Super 2000 car like the Satria Neo has made me a more complete driver. You absolutely have to commit to everything with these kind of cars and we’re doing that. I’ve got a lot to give in this sport, but right now I’m focused on winning the APRC title with Proton.”

Atkinson holds a 23-point lead over Proton team-mate Alister McRae, while the British-built cars are well ahead in the makes’ race.

There are two APRC rounds remaining this season.

PHOTOS: Marcel Stawiczny

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