Chris Atkinson has said that while he doesn't want to set his sights too low this weekend in Ireland, he doesn't want to be overly optimistic either ahead of what will be his debut outing in the championship winning, Citroen C4 WRC.
Atkinson enjoyed his best season to date last year in the World Rally Championship, finishing '08 fifth in the drivers' championship, having notched up five podiums and 50 points in total.
The Aussie however, was left in the lurch last month, when Subaru shocked the sport by announcing its immediate withdrawal - just one day on from Suzuki also quitting the WRC.
Now though Chris looks set to begin a new chapter and he is excited about what he could achieve with the Citroen Junior Team.
“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. But I am not going to cruise around. I am not going to go there and say I want a top ten finish because that is not where we are use to finishing in with the Subaru,” he told Crash.net Radio
in an exclusive interview pre-event.
“The last time we did an event in similar conditions we were competitive and I won a stage the last time I did Rally Ireland. We were on the podium on the Rallye Monte Carlo twelve months ago too. You don't want to set your sights too low. But I don't want to be overly optimistic either and say I am going to be competitive with the factory guys.
“Hopefully we will be somewhere in between and if we can get some good points for the Citroen Junior Team and fight against the second Ford team as well I will be pleased. We will see how we go.
“I think shakedown and the first day will give me a much clearer indication and then we will see if we can push after that.”
Atkinson got to conduct a test with his new steed a few weeks ago in the north of France and he was happy with the outcome: “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,” he recalled.
“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.”
Pressed on if he will need to alter his style a bit to suit the C4, he conceded he may have to change it a 'little'.
“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,” he continued. “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.”