TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH CHRIS ATKINSON: CLICK HERE
Chris Atkinson will make his debut in a Citroen
C4 WRC car on the Rally Ireland this week. Crash.net Radio's
Rob Wilkins caught up with the Aussie to find out how much he is looking forward to the opening round in the 2009 World Rally Championship…
Chris, obviously a lot has happened since the end of last season. To begin with just how much of a shock was it when you're old team, Subaru, announced they were pulling out of the WRC?
It was a big surprise for everyone involved. There were a lot of ramifications throughout the sport because of that and a lot more people than us were affected as well. Obviously it wasn't great news. We knew on the day, when they called for us to come and meet them, that something was going on. But we didn't expect that.
It was quite sad too wasn't it, especially because with the new car things were looking quite promising for 2009?
It was disappointing because we had all worked so hard and we knew there were some improvements coming. We had hoped to win and obviously we had hoped to win in previous years. But there was work going on to really improve the performance. However other factors became involved and a decision was taken. That is the way it goes. That is life.
Since Subaru's exit you have secured a drive with the Citroen
Junior Team for the first event in Ireland. How did that deal come about?
We started looking for something after we heard the announcement [by Subaru to quit]. We obviously wanted to stay in the top flight and Subaru actually said to us that they wanted us to be in the top category and they weren't going to hold us back. They were going to let us go on if an opportunity came about. Fortunately when we spoke to Citroen
they made it possible for a car to be available and luckily we have been able to put a deal together for Ireland. Hopefully we can do some more events too but we will maybe let people know later about that. I will focus on doing Ireland and see where we go from there.
You have already tested the Citroen
C4 WRC. How confident are you feeling with it and how much will that test help you in Ireland?
It is difficult to say how well we will do because it is our first time in the car and Ireland is not an easy event. It is very tricky and obviously the drivers - especially on tarmac for Citroen, are very good and the car is very good. We hope to do well. We had a good test. It was one day and we started to get a feeling towards the end of it. I was quite comfortable with the car. We went up and down with a few settings but in the end ended up somewhere pretty normal for them. Everyone was pretty happy and it was good for me to drive a different World Rally Car for the first time in my career and get to experience that feeling. It was an exciting day on our behalf and I just tried to take it all in. It all depends now on how well I adapt to how well I will go in Ireland.
Of course the C4 and the Impreza are obviously very different cars. Do you think you will have to change your driving style?
A little bit. I was still learning about that on the day and I think even with another day testing we would get quicker in the car again. It is just about adapting my style a little bit. But I don't think I have to change too much. The car works for you a lot and as long as you push you get the result.
Are you looking forward to directly comparing yourself against Sebastien Loeb?