by Rob Wilkins

Subaru number two driver, Chris Atkinson has said that he is pleased to have signed a new deal that will see him remain at the Banbury-based outfit next year - despite the fact the SWRT have had a pretty disappointing season.

Speaking exclusively to Radio, the Aussie, who only stepped up and started competing full-time in the FIA World Rally Championship in 2005, added that the continuity should be a big help, as he looks to continue to learn and strive for regular podiums and hopefully a win.

"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," he explained. "It is great we will be able to continue that work next year. The focus was to stay with them [all along] and I think they were keen to do the same.

"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."

As for how he has progressed, Chris said he has been pleased with his form, even if that has been somewhat hard to see from the outside due to the short comings of the Impreza. Indeed while he has managed to finish in the top ten in seven events thus far and has scored 14 points, he has not been able to match that podium result from Japan in '05 as yet.

"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," he added. "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.

"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."

Whether that last comment is a dig at the media, is open to debate, but whatever the truth, one thing cannot be disputed: Subaru have not be able to match the likes of BP Ford or Kronos Citroen this season. Furthermore Atkinson himself concedes that their expectations for the final four rallies are not exactly high.

"It is still going to be tough [in Turkey, Australia, NZ and Britain]. 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," he continued. "I would love to do a great result in Australia. It is not going to be easy however, although we led the rally last year. I think at the moment it is going to be difficult to do the same. We will just have to wait and see."


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