Chris ‘Atko’ Atkinson - Professional Rally Driver
Born: 30 November 1979, Bega, New South Wales, Australia
Lives: Gold Coast, AUSTRALIA and Monte Carlo, MONACO
Prior to his motorsport career, Atkinson was one of Australia’s youngest stockbrokers. He graduated at Bond University in commerce, majoring in finance and accounting in 1999 after receiving an academic scholarship for studies.
For his first full season of competition, Atkinson contested the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) aboard a privately-entered Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, finishing inside the top ten in Group N and in the overall top 20 on every round he contested, as well as setting two second-fastest stage times. Co-driven by brother Ben, the Atkinsons finished ninth outright to become Privateer Champions. This performance brought Atkinson to the attention of Suzuki, who offered him the opportunity to drive one of its Super 1600 Ignis models with the Suzuki Sport team in the 2003 Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC).
Atkinson rewarded the team with a class win in the opening round of the championship in Canberra. Next came a second place in New Zealand, a second in Japan and two wins in Thailand and India, culminating in Atkinson winning the Super 1600 title. He finished fifth in the overall championship, ahead of many, more powerful, four-wheel-drive, turbo-charged cars. Atkinson duplicated this feat in 2004 winning the APRC’s Super 1600 class for a second consecutive year.
His strong performances in both the ARC and APRC Championships drew the attention of the Subaru World Rally Team and the Australian was handed the opportunity to drive one event for the squad in 2004 at the World Rally Championship (WRC) round in New Zealand. His performance impressed the Japanese manufacturer who signed up the Australian to the Subaru World Rally Team’s factory squad in 2005 alongside 2003 world champion Petter Solberg. Atkinson finished 12th overall in the drivers’ world championship with 13 points. His best results were third in Japan and fourth in Australia. Atkinson created history that year by becoming the first Australian to be signed up to factory seat in the WRC.
2006 was a tough season for Atkinson who finished tenth overall in the drivers championship with 20 points and a best result of fourth in Japan. At the start of the 2007 season Atkinson knew he needed to pick up the pace and finished fourth at Rallye Monte Carlo, recording three stage wins. On the final day of the rally, Atkinson was 0.8 seconds behind fourth place man Mikko Hirvonen and had to beat him in the super special stage, a 2.4 km run through Monaco which uses part of the world famous Formula One course. Hirvonen set a time of 1:50.9 meaning that Atkinson had to at least set a time of 1:50.1 to beat him, but Atkinson did better and took the stage win with a time of 1:49.9. Hirvonen was the first person over to Atkinson to congratulate him. At the 2007 Rally Finland, Atkinson posted the fastest time on the short opening super special stage on a horse-racing course at Killeri, to lead the rally for a short time. Atkinson finished the 2007 season seventh overall in the drivers’ world championship with no podiums but three strong fourth place finishes.
At the beginning of the 2008 season, Atkinson took third place in Monte Carlo; while at the 2008 Corona Rally Mexico, Atkinson managed second, 30 seconds ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala. He finished the season with a career high fifth in the drivers’ standings, and for the first time, outscored Subaru WRT leader Solberg. It was a stella year for Atko with five podium results but after Subaru’s season-ending announcement of its withdrawal from the WRC in December 2008, Atkinson was left team-less. Fortunately his solid 2008 form saw a one-off event signing for the new Citroën Junior Team in the 2009 season. In his only rally for the season in Ireland, he produced a strong showing to finish fifth, despite colliding with a telegraph pole during the first day, and suffering a spin on SS18.
In April 2010, Atkinson began a partnership with the Proton R3 Rally Team. Competing in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), Atkinson drove a Proton Satria Neo Super 2000, alongside co-driver Stephane Prevot. Also driving for the Proton R3 Rally Team was former WRC driver Alister McRae. After making a guest appearance at the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) Monte Carlo Rally, Atkinson dominated the 2011 APRC, winning the Malaysian Rally, Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonia and the International Rally of Whangarei. However mechanical failures in both Queensland and the final round in Hokkaido saw him finish second to his team mate McRae.
In 2012 Atkinson signed with the Monster World Rally Team to race alongside Ken Block in Mexico. Atkinson won a stage – the first for the Monster World Rally Team – SS12 – Leon Super Special but finished with a DNF due to mechanical failure. Atkinson also signed up for a one-off drive in a Citroën DS3 WRC for the Qatar World Rally Team for Rally Finland.
However, his medium term WRC future was granted when it was announced he would replace Armindo Araujo as the lead driver for the factory-backed WRC Team MINI Portugal in the last five rallies of the 2012 season. Atkinson contested the last five rounds in 2012 to finish the year 13th in the Championship. His best result for the year was achieved at Rallye Deutschland (Rally Germany) where he secured 5th behind the wheel of the MINI John Cooper Works WRC.
2012 also saw Atkinson rally in an Australia-run Skoda in the 2012 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), co-driven by regular wingman Stephane Prevot. The factory Skoda, purchased from Europe, proved to be a dominant performer as Atkinson won the 2012 Asia Pacific Rally Championship. The result became the Gold Coaster’s first, and biggest, international motorsport crown, captured amongst a raft of extremely competitive rallying talent from across the globe.
In 2013 Gold Coaster Chris Atkinson contested one event with the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team and finished sixth at Rally Mexico. Despite losing three and a half minutes and dropping outside the top-15 on Day 1 after hitting a rock and damaging his steering, ‘Atko’ put on a rallying clinic to climb right back up the leaderboard and secure a handy haul of points for the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team. Atkinson showed he still has the pace to mix it with the best of them, often matching stage times with the factory Citroën, Ford and Volkswagen drivers.
In July of 2013 Atkinson received great news that he would be back on the world rallying stage after scoring a role with Hyundai Motorsport as their official test and development driver for 2013. Hyundai Motorsport added Atko to their 2013 test team as it embarked on an exciting journey back into the FIA World Rally Championship. The skilled Australian supported Hyundai Motorsport’s main test drivers Juho Hänninen and Bryan Bouffier at selected tests during the remainder of the year.
In December ATKO was handed an early Christmas present with the announcement he will be part of Hyundai Motorsport in the 2014 World Rally Championship. The Gold Coaster had been out of a full time drive since the end of 2008 and is delighted to be back in the sport’s top flight, competing as a factory driver in an all-new i20 World Rally Car. Hyundai Motorsport had Atkinson on the books in 2013 as an official test driver for the squad which has been utilising the year to develop a strong outfit for its WRC return. Atkinson continued his partnership with the experienced notes called by Belgian Stephane Prevot from the co-drivers seat.
2014 saw ATKO contest two rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship as a factory driver for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team. ATKO secured a solid seventh place finish on the Corona Rally Mexico despite some technical issues. His second and final WRC event in 2014 saw ATKO contest his home rally, the Coates Hire Rally Australia where he finished with a top-10 result on home soil.
In 2015 Atko helped the FAW-VW Rally Team win both the manufacturers’ and drivers’ titles in the 2015 Chinese Rally Championship. Atko played mentor to local driver, Chen Dean in the second Golf with Dean winning the drivers’ title by two points (The drivers’ championship is only open to local Chinese drivers).
2016 once again sees Atko competing in the Chinese Rally ChampionshipFAW-VW Rally Team with support from his former Prodrive team. 2016 also saw Atko earn a start with the Subaru Rally Team USA for the final three rounds of the Red Bull Global Rallycross series where he secured the team’s best result of the season in Seattle by finishing 6th behind the wheel of the 600bhp WRX STI Rallycross car. IN the final round of the series Atko also scored Subaru Rally Team USA’s first pole of the 2016 season in Los Angeles.
2017 sees Atko competing in the 2017 Red Bull Global Rallycross series (GRC) after signing a deal to join Subaru. The deal sees Atkinson become the first ever Australian to compete full time in the series that has captured the attention of fans across the globe with its high octane, action-packed racing format.
first: New Zealand 2004
latest: Australia 2014
|Best result:||2nd (Mexico 2008, Argentina 2008)|
|Wins:||0||(0.0% of starts)|
|Total points scored:||165||(drivers' championship points)|
|DNF's:||12||(17.6% of starts)|
|Total podiums:||6||(8.8% of starts)|
|First WRC event:||2004 New Zealand|
|First DNF:||2004 New Zealand
|First scored point:||2004 Australia (5th)|
|First stage win:||2005 New Zealand (SS3)|
|First time led rally:||2005 Japan (SS1)|
|First podium:||2005 Japan|
WRC Career summary
|Starts per Co-driver|
|Starts per makes|
|Finland: 6||Sardinia: 5||Turkey: 3|
|Mexico: 7||Acropolis: 4||Cyprus: 2|
|Catalunya: 5||Argentina: 4||Ireland: 2|
|Deutschland: 5||Corsica: 4||Alsace: 1|
|Great Britain: 5||Sweden: 4||Jordan: 1|
|Japan: 5||Australia: 4||Norway: 1|
|New Zealand: 5||Monte Carlo: 3||Portugal: 1|