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GP Week : 06-May-2008
“We tend to go better on the higher speed rallies. Even now we are still learning the car and I haven’t got it to a perfect set- up for everywhere, but I think I can also go reasonably quickly in the slower stuff now as well. “Everything seems to be developing well but there is obviously more to go. It is all heading overall in the right direction.” Atkinson has particularly impressed on stages like St Bonnet-le-Froid, the fastest stage at Monte Carlo, where on the last four visits he has been fastest driver three times. “I guess speed in places like that could be more down to the number of risks you are prepared to take and the confidence you have in those conditions! “Rallying is not the same as circuit racing. Rally stages like St Bonnet are about confidence in the car and committing yourself to the corners, it is how you can take your car over the limit and bring it back. It is more about trusting yourself. “Circuit racing is about being smooth. On the track you are much more limited to the potential of the car on each corner. It’s not the same.” According to Atkinson, there are many people responsible for getting him from Australia to the World Rally Championship. “Obviously everybody in my family, they have put a lot behind me and supported me all these years. “The person who got me my first works drive was Paul Wilding at Suzuki, who put me into one of their Asia Pacific championship Super 1600 cars. Without him I would not have had this drive. “Subaru Australia also played a part in helping me, as well as a group of three business people who supported my first year in the world championship in 2005. “We are still regularly in contact. They took a risk with their capital by sponsoring me and at the moment it is paying off.” While Australia doesn’t have a long list of World Rally drivers, Atkinson says the sports doesn’t go unnoticed down under. “People know about rallying but they are not so passionate. They know it exists but they don’t know much about it. It was the same for me. “What happened was, when I was at Uni my brother started to go rallying himself, and I actually co-drove for one of his mates. “I think people abroad underestimate how good a lot of the drivers are in Australia. The level of the sport there is basically quite high. “It was great news when we heard that they were looking to bring Rally Australia in the future up to our state, Queensland. “I always enjoyed the world championship rally when it was in Perth and it was a great shame to see it stop, because I think every driver enjoyed that rally. I miss it, because it was such a unique rally. “The future rally will be in south Queensland and north New South Wales, and it is an area in which I never rallied before. “We will see what happens when it comes to my area of the world. “I tell you, when we win that rally, then we will really party! I am hoping it all comes true; I really can’t wait for it to happen.” Tie me kangaroo down, sport: Atkinson can’t wait for the World Rally Championship to return to Australia next year. WRC INSIGHT >> 41