Former World Rally Champion Hannu Mikkola reckons Suzuki's Asia-Pacific front runner Chris Atkinson has the potential to make the grade at World Championship level.

The Finn saw the Australian driver in action on the Rally Japan, which he attended to watch his son Vesa driving the sister Suzuki. Atkinson was comfortably the top two-wheel-drive contender and eighth fastest on one stage in his Super 1600 Ignis.

"Atkinson is really flying," he said. "He is the next star. It's very difficult to come from there [Australia], because if you win your local championship, everybody says the level is not high. To beat all the top Group N cars is not easy."

At the finish, Atkinson confirmed that he hopes to put together a World Championship programme for 2005. Suzuki Sport chief 'Monster' Tajima is keen to see him in the Junior series.