Australia’s most recent FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) full-time driver Chris Atkinson believes tarmac rally experience is key for any young Australian aspiring to compete overseas.
Appearing on the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship’s web series, ARC Service Park, Atkinson discussed his local and WRC career, origins within the sport, his fiercest competitors and how hard it was to make it to the top level.
The New South Welshman enjoyed two stints in the WRC during his rally career, representing Subaru World Rally Team between 2004 and 2008 and Citroen Juniors in 2009 before taking a break and returning in 2012 for three years.
Atkinson was a well-respected driver who picked up a number of podiums and top 10 placings in his 77 WRC appearances, including two consecutive runner-up finishes during his best season in 2008, where he finished fifth outright.
During Atkinson’s appearance on ARC Service Park, the 40-year-old explained how with the majority of Australian rally stages taking place on gravel, it was his extra work on tarmac that got helped him succeed at the top level.
“It’s something you definitely need to work on if you haven’t got it in your repertoire,” Atkinson said.
“Not having many tarmac opportunities in Australia held us back a little but it was also a good experience because it made put a lot of effort into learning it. Me getting better on tarmac is what cemented my place on the WRC team.
“I put a lot of extra effort into that. We would do driver coaching and train all the time. All the focus was on tarmac. The key is finding the right roads. Australia is so different to Europe, especially courses like Corsica and Spain.
“What a young driver needs to do is go over to Europe and get some experience on tarmac before making the move to WRC. They need to learn as much as they can in Europe before attempting to go full-time because it will make a real difference.”
Fans can watch the full episode of ARC Service Park in the video below.