Chris Atkinson will compete in this year's FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship in a Proton Satria Neo S2000, having signed a deal with the Proton R3 Rally Team, it has been announced.

The Australian will link-up with Alister McRae, in what will be one of the strongest driver line-ups for the seven-round 2010 Asia Pacific Rally Championship, which starts later this month with Proton's home event, the Malaysian Rally, from April 24-25.

Atkinson brings a tremendous balance of youth and experience to the Proton team - and he's no stranger to rallying in the Asia Pacific region. He made his name in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship with a debut class win in 2005.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to drive the next generation of rally car. I'm really excited about the year ahead," said Atkinson, who competed in the WRC with the Subaru World Rally Team from 2005-2008.

"I've tested the Satria Neo S2000 briefly in Britain and it's a very, very good car. I'm looking forward to working with Proton and Alister [McRae] in the year ahead. To be honest, I can't wait to get started on the first event."

Proton R3 Rally team manager Chris Mellors meanwhile reckons that Atkinson will bring 'another dimension' to the squad.

"He has shown what he can do at the highest level of this sport and it's great news for Proton that he's joining us," Mellors added. "We're a real Asia Pacific team now: a Malaysian manufacturer with a native Australian driving one car and a Scotsman living in Australia in the other.

"There's no doubt, this is going to be an exciting season for Proton and all concerned with the programme. But, right now, the focus is on getting Alister and Chris more time in the Satria and getting everything ready for our home round of the 2010 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship."

The Proton Satria Neo S2000 is the product of an alliance between Malaysian manufacturer Proton and British motorsport preparation experts MEM. The car, which made its debut in the sport last season, has already run at the highest level, with McRae collecting second place on only his second event in the car in Scotland in December last year. The forthcoming Malaysian Rally will be the team's first appearance of 2010.

The 2010 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship consists of seven rounds in seven countries, including Malaysia, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, Indonesia and China.