Australian rally star Chris Atkinson will saddle up a John Cooper Works MINI racer at the third round of the 2009 MINI Challenge at the brand new Townsville circuit in three weeks' time.
Despite still competing on special stages around the world, the former Subaru factory driver will drive the 'Uber Star' MINI Challenge car prepared by the Stillwell MINI Garage team in support of the V8 Supercar Series event at Townsville, where the new twin-driver format will make its debut.
“I'm really excited about it,” Atkinson, now a member of the Citroen Junior Team, admitted, “I've driven a MINI once before, but never in a race situation. However, I've been hearing a lot about MINI Challenge and a lot about the new Townsville circuit so, when the chance came up to try them both out, I didn't hesitate.”
The 28-year old Atkinson shot to prominence after signing with the 2005 Subaru WRC team and has gone on to become a respected member of the world elite family with five podium finishes last year alone. However, the withdrawal of the Subaru effort has left him free to tackle other disciplines, even though he will be back competing in Europe just days after the Townsville event.
“I've probably got the best round to come in without any MINI experience,” Atkinson explained, aware that his road racing experience comprises just two events – the Nurburgring 24 Hours and Bathurst 12 Hours, "At least we'll all be new to the track there, so nobody has home track experience.
“I think, if anything, my 4WD experience will help in the front-wheel-drive MINI, as sometimes there are a few parallels between 4WD and front-wheel-drive. I'll have that on my side anyway and, hopefully, that compensates for my lack of consistent road racing experience.”
Atkinson follows AFL personality Sam Newman and Winter Olympics gold medallist Steven Bradbury in taking the wheel of the 'Uber Star'.