Subaru's Chris Atkinson was at the Autosport International show last weekend and although the 25 year-old will sit out this weekend's opener in Monte Carlo, he's all geared up for the second round in Sweden, which begins on February 11.

Here the Aussie tells Crash.net Radio all about the coming year, including what he has been up to thus far, his first impressions of the team and loads, loads more...

Q:
Chris, how does it feel to have bagged a drive with the crack Subaru WRT?

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Chris Atkinson:
It's an amazing opportunity. I never expected to step up this quickly to the WRC. It's an unbelievable opportunity and I hope to make the most of it this year.

Q:
Last year did you expect that you would get a shot at competing in the WRC so early? Was it one of your aims?

CA:
We were quite lucky to be picked up by Subaru Australia at the start of 2004 - to get the opportunity to drive for them. So we were really not looking much more than driving in Australia at that stage. But obviously the results through the year helped, and then finally at Rally Australia, a good result, beating the top Group N guys for our first time there against guys that had been there for seven to eight years was probably the clincher and it all came together in the last few weeks of the year.

Q:
So all at the end of the year then... there you are enjoying the Australian summer and now you are transported over here to the UK. It's a fair contrast this time of year?

CA:
Yeah, a big change from 30 degrees plus at home and being on the beach. Now its dark most of the time and cold, but we are so busy it doesn't really matter and we are really settling in and just going flat out learning the technical aspects of the car and making sure we make the most of this opportunity. I'm training hard and we are doing everything we can.

Q:
What's been you're first impressions of the Prodrive set-up? Were you blown away by it? Was it what you expected?

CA:
Yeah, I guess you hold high expectations from what they have done in the past. Obviously it is amazing to see the amount of effort that goes in, the amount of people that work there. It will take me probably all year before I know everyone - if I do. It's a big team and they work really hard so hopefully my effort will help reward them and all their effort, so we can work together and get some good results through the year.

Q:
You have only been over a few weeks, but what have you been up to so far?

CA:
Basically we went to Finland, where Petter and Stephane were testing. I spent some time in the Impreza with Stephane and I got a feeling for the car. This last week we have been in the workshop stripping the car to bits. I don't know whether we will have to put them back together, that might be a bit harder! But you are getting to know the car and understanding all the technical aspects and that always helps if you have any problems, or if you hit something, or to make the car go faster to suit your style and so on - just understanding how everything is working

Q:
What do the team expect from you? Are they being open?

CA:
Yeah they are definitely being open with what's going on for this year. I guess the biggest thing is you've got to show potential. If you can't show potential to win, obviously you are not going to win or get top podiums in your first year, no one has really done that, everyone has taken a few years, like Petter to get to the stage where they are winning, and then in contention for the championship, its more about showing the potential to win, that comes through stages time and a lot of other variables that aren't as easy to see from the outside. There's a lot of aspects that go into what will be a good season for me.

Q:
Now you are going to be mixing some of the different rounds with ex-F1 driver, Stephane Sarrazin. What are your impressions of him so far?

CA:
Yeah, obviously his attitude towards everything is Formula One style and his technical experience and training and testing and so on, is quite a high level, something I haven't experienced yet. The same with Petter, they are both at a higher level than me, but I am a few years younger than both of them, so I am coming in from a different sort of angle. Hopefully I can learn a lot from those two guys. Stephane is unbelievably quick on tarmac and Petter is on gravel as well as tarmac. So I want to make the most of those two guys - they are quite open and free to talk - so I can learn a lot from them and I will make the most of it.

Q:
What happens next? You are obviously out in Monte Carlo with the rest of the team but are not competing. What's your role there?

CA:
First of all we will be doing the recce with the guys obviously getting to know the road, hopefully doing the event next year. So that's all part of that and then we will be doing some work with the team. Just helping out, weather reports and so on, just understanding the conditions and just networking with the team, and becoming apart of the team. That's all part of the bonding process I guess.

Q:
Your first event is Sweden isn't it?

CA:
Yeah. It is going quite exciting for me. I've never driven a World Rally car and raced on snow, so a lot to learn there - that is the main thing to learn, and get the experience and get to the end of the event and hopefully increase our pace throughout it.

Q:
How much can you do before you go there?

CA:
I've done a little bit of Group N stuff on snow, just testing. So I have an idea of what the surface is like. It is similar to gravel. It's quite consistent, obviously there is a lot to learn throughout the event and you would expect to get faster throughout it, learning more about it. But like most of the guys say, it is a lot like gravel, you can push very hard on the studs and the feeling is quite good through the car, so it is a pretty exciting rally and all the drivers seem to like it.

Q:
How are you going to approach that first event? Will you really go for it? Or will you exercise some caution and try and get some experience, rather than the disaster of say going off on the first stage on the first corner?

CA:
Yeah I think that would be silly to go out there and do that. So it is more an experience one. Obviously my experience is on gravel and I don't have any experience on snow really. So it is an experience counting event and we will be trying to do all the miles. It is not one we where will be looking for an awesome result. It's more just to get the experience and I think that is what the team is expecting, so they will be more than happy for me to get the miles rather than go and stick it off on the first corner.

Q:
Let's hope it goes well then Chris.

CA:
Cheers. Thanks a lot.