Chris Atkinson is an Australian rally and rallycross driver who currently competes in the US-based ARX American Rallycross series. Previously, he recorded 77 starts in the World Rally Championship between 2004 and 2014, scoring six podiums.
Considering that results, he is the most successful Australian rally driver in the WRC ever. His most successful year was 2008, when he scored five podiums with Subaru World Rally Team to finish fifth in the WRC standings.
Chris started his rally career together with brother Ben
Born in November 1979 in Bega, New South Wales, Chris Atkinson started his rally career in 2001, together with brother Benjamin. In their first rally attempts, Chris was a co-driver to Benjamin but they switched positions after attending a rally school and Chris decided to take a wheel in his hands.
In 2002, Chris entered his first full season in the Australian Rally Championship, driving a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V. He finished ninth overall in the championship and the best among privateers.
Asia-Pacific S1600 rally champion in 2003 and 2004
Such a results secured him a drive with Suzuki Sport in the 2003 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). Chris was driving a Suzuki Ignis S1600, with his brother as a navigator. They finished fifth overall in the championship and the winners of S1600 class.
In 2004, Atkinson brothers defended their APRC S1600 title, scoring four class victories in a Suzuki Ignis S1600. They were fifth in the overall classification.
World Rally Championship debut in 2004
In 2004, Chris Atkinson also made a WRC debut. In April, he and brother participated at Rally New Zealand in their private Subaru Impreza WRX STI. They retired after an accident on the last day.
At Rally Japan, which counted for the APRC and WRC, Atkinson brothers contested in a Suzuki, finishing 12th overall. Atkinson appeared in two more WRC events with Subaru Impreza, finishing 33rd (7th in the N4 class) at Rally Finland and as the N4 class winners at Rally Australia. In that event, his new co-driver was Glenn MacNeall.
Joining Subaru World Rally Team in 2005
For the 2005 WRC season, Atkinson signed for Subaru World Rally Team to drive a Subaru Impreza S11 WRC next to Petter Solberg and Stephane Sarrazin. Atkinson's navigator was Glenn MacNeall. The highlight of the season was Atkinson's maiden WRC podium at Rally Japan, where he finished third behind Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) and Sebastien Loeb (Citroen). Atkinson ended a season 12th in the points.
In 2006, Atkinson stayed with Subaru WRT and improved his overall result, finishing tenth in the championship points. His best result during a season was fourth place at Rally Japan.
Nürburgring 24h and Bathurst 12h with Subaru
In 2006, Atkinson made his circuit racing debut, driving a Subaru Impreza at 24 hours of Nürburgring for Autosportif Racing UK. He finished second in the class.
Five WRC podiums in the 2008 WRC season
In the 2007 WRC season, another improvement followed and Atkinson ended a season seventh in the final standings with fourth place in three events (Monte-Carlo, Finland, New Zealand) as his best result. In the mid-season, Stephane Prevot became his new co-driver.
And then, in 2008, Atkinson reached a peak of his career. He and Stephane Prevot were on a podium five times. They were second in Mexico and Argentina, both times behind Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena. The #6 Subaru Impreza WRC was third in Monte-Carlo, Jordan and Finland. At the end of the season, Atkinson was fifth in the points, one place ahead of teammate Petter Solberg.
2009 – one-off WRC appearance with Citroen
At the end of 2008, Subaru left WRC and Atkinson had no ride for 2009. That year, he participated in just one rally event, driving the #7 Citroen C4 WRC for Citroen Junior Team at Rally Ireland. Finishing in fifth place, he earned four points which secured him 14th place in the championship.
Outside rallying, Atkinson participated in one round of the Australian Mini Challenge, together with Steve Owen. In two races, they scored one podium.
Two seasons with Proton Motorsport
In 2010, Atkinson joined Proton Motorsport to compete full season in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. He was driving a Proton Satria Neo S2000, finishing fifth in the final standings.
In 2011, Atkinson and Prevot stayed in a Proton Satria Neo S2000, scoring three APRC victories and finishing second in the championship. The champion was Atkinson's teammate Alister McRae.
2012 – eight WRC starts with three different teams
In 2012, Atkinson returned to the World Rally Championship. In March, he was driving Ford Fiesta RS WRC for Ken Block's Monster WRT at Rally Mexico, not finishing the race. In August, he had a one-off appearance with Qatar World Rally Team, driving a Citroen DS3 WRC.
In the second part of the season, Atkinson joined WRC Team Mini Portugal and spent five events in a Mini John Cooper Works WRC. He managed to score points in four of these five events, finishing 13th in the final WRC classification.
APRC champion in 2012 with Škoda
Besides driving in WRC, Atkinson stayed a regular competitor in the 2012 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, driving a Škoda Fabia S2000 for MRF Tyres team. He was on a podium in all five events he participated, including two victories at Rally of Whangarei and Rally of Queensland.
In 2013, Atkinson had a one-off appearance in the WRC, driving a Citroen DS3 WRC for Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT at Rally Mexico. The rest of the season, he spent in China, driving a Volkswagen Golf in the Chinese Rally Championship.
Last WRC attempts in 2014
Atkinson recorded his last two WRC appearances in 2014, driving for Hyundai Motorsport at Rally Mexico and Rally Australia. His navigator in the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC was Stephane Prevot. They were 7th in Mexico and 10th in Australia.
In 2014, Atkinson continued to drive for FAW-Volkswagen Team in China, scoring three wins in the Chinese championship. He was returning to China with Volkswagen until 2016, scoring six more rally wins in a Volkswagen Golf SCRC.
New beginning in a rallycross career
In 2016, Atkinson opened a new chapter in a career, entering the Global Rallycross Championship with Subaru Rally Team USA. He participated in last four races in a specially-prepared Subaru Impreza rallycross supercar.
In 2017, Atkinson spent full GRC season with Subaru Rally Team USA, taking part in all but one races. He was on a podium two times, finishing seventh in the final classification. In 2018, the US-based competition was converted into the ARX America Rallycross and Atkinson participated in all four events, finishing fifth in the final standings.