by Rob Wilkins

The Subaru World Rally Team confirmed on Tuesday that Chris Atkinson will again drive their number two car in 2007, alongside team leader, Petter Solberg. Crash.net Radio caught up with the Aussie to discuss his new deal and the remainder of the season and while he wasn't especially chatty, one thing is certain: he is hoping the Impreza will be a lot more competitive next year...

Q:
Chris, first up congratulations, you must be delighted to have renewed your deal with the Subaru WRT for 2007?

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Chris Atkinson:
It is good to maintain the continuity there and keep working with Subaru - we have put a lot of effort in and so has the team. It is great we will be able to continue that work next year.

Q:
Did you have any talks with any other teams or was your primary focus on staying with Subaru?

CA:
The focus was to stay with them and I think they were keen to do the same - so, fairly mutual.

Q:
Obviously one of the big changes for next season is that you will do all the events in the #2 car and as such you will be nominated to score manufacturers' points on the asphalt events too. How big a pressure is that? Is that a bonus?

CA:
To me it is much the same. I still tried to do my best with my limited experience on tarmac this year and we will try and do the same next year as well. I think if we improve the car a bit more on tarmac then we can definitely be in contention for good points.

Q:
Looking at this year, it's only been your second season in the WRC. Subaru have struggled a bit, but have you been happy with the progress you have made?

CA:
It is hard to say where we are and all we can do is compare ourselves with our [main] team-mate [Petter Solberg] and we are reasonably close to him in terms of stages times. We still have a bit to go, but we are still learning and progressing. That's all I can do. It seems to be going OK - and if we can keep making progress there and keep working together as a team, that is the main thing.

Q:
Do you think the lack of performance with the Impreza, has concealed some of the steps forward you have made?

CA:
Yeah, it is difficult to show your potential - but like I said, we are all dealing with it at the team. They understand where I am and a lot of people outside the team probably don't. It is easier for the guys in the team to analyse my results and see what is doing on, because we know all the facts, where as it is easy for people to put us down if they don't know all that is going on.

Q:
You said there, the team know the facts - and as they have renewed your contract that is a big vote of confidence isn't it?

CA:
It is good and obviously I hope as much as everyone that we can get the car back on track and then we can show our potential.

Q:
There are four events left on the 2006 schedule, what do you think you can do?

CA:
It is still going to be tough. We are not kidding ourselves at all. We knew that going into the last couple of rallies and what we expected came true, so we are just working hard now, testing and trying to understand the car even more. No one is underestimating what it will take to get the car back on track.

Q:
Two of those final four events take place in your 'neck of the woods' sort of speak globally, in New Zealand and Australia. Will that give you an added incentive to really push?

CA:
We always push. I would love to do a great result down there. It is not going to be easy, although we led the rally last year but I think at the moment it is going to be difficult to do the same. We will just have to wait and see.

Q:
Talking of Rally Australia, it doesn't look like it will be on the calendar next season. That must be quite a blow for you?

CA:
It is massively disappointing, but hopefully we can get it back there as soon as possible. It is a big market for Subaru and obviously important for me. I'm optimistic we will have an event there in the not to distant future.

Q:
You have a test in Sicily on Thursday and Friday, what's the focus for that test?

CA:
Just further development on the car basically - working on what we know we have to concentrate on.

Q:
Are there more tests planned before the end of the year?

CA:
There will be more tests, but I am not sure of the specifics at the moment.

Q:
Going back to 2007, what are you're hopes for next year?

CA:
Hopefully if we get the package right we will be in contention for some podiums and be fighting at the front, like we did at the end of last year. Unfortunately we haven't been in that position this year. I don't think we have forgotten how to drive - it is just a matter of getting the whole package right.

Q:
Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to in 2007?

CA:
Just being back near the front...