Chris Atkinson’s hopes of achieving a full-time drive in the 2015 World Rally Championship could hinge on a strong performance at this weekend’s Coates Hire Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour.
The Australian is plotting to go on maximum attack in what will be only his second start for the Shell Hyundai World Rally Team in the WRC this year.
Atkinson, a former factory driver for Subaru, was unveiled alongside Dani Sordo and Juho Hanninen as part of a three driver line-up to share the second Hyundai i20 entry this season.
However, the Korean manufacturer has only deployed the 34-year-old in this year’s Rally Mexico, resulting in a strong seventh place finish.
It had been hoped the winner of 41 WRC special stages would be given more seat time throughout the 13 round campaign.
Speaking following the pre-event shakedown, Atkinson admitted that this weekend’s performance on home soil will play a role in his bid to secure a permanent home in the WRC in 2015.
“I’d love to be a full timer once again but a lot of that will depend on this weekend, so I have just got to pull my finger out,” said a relaxed Atkinson.
“It’s good to be back and I’m just looking forward to getting going.
“I have just got to the best job I can do.
“As a semi part-timer if I can be on the pace with the guys who are here week in week out then I will be happy.
“There are no excuses we will drive flat out.”
Having witnessed team-mate Thierry Neuville claim a maiden victory for himself and the Hyundai squad in Germany last time out, Atkinson has been impressed at the progress the squad has made this year.
After completing the shakedown just outside the top 10, the local favourite says he has already noticed improvements in the i20 since his run earlier in the year in Mexico.
“It was awesome to be part of the build up of the while Hyundai project and 12 months later the car is winning a rally, so its been impressive from a team point of view,” added Atkinson.
“The car has improved and is definitely more agile in quick changes of direction and the massive amount of development work has really shown.
“It’s all the small improvements and understanding what works and doesn’t work with the car and you fine tune that over time and different conditions.
“There have been some big steps in areas and areas will still need to improve in other though.”
Rally Australia will begin on Friday morning with a run through the 10.7km Hydes Creek special stage.