‘SURPRISED’ ATKO GETS CITROEN DRIVE FOR MEXICO WRC EVENT

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Chris Atkinson has talked of his surprise and delight at Citroen’s offer of a factory DS3 World Rally Car for Rally Guanajuato Mexico next month. The Australian, 33, will stand in for Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT driver Khalid Al Qassimi, who is unable to take part in the event. The news was confirmed by Citroen Racing boss Yves Matton, who said Al Qassimi wanted Atkinson and co-driver Stephane Prevot to take his place because they had the potential to do Abu Dhabi Racing proud. “It was a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t expecting it, but there’s a limited number of drivers who can be called on to perform at this level,” Atkinson said of the invitation he received from Paris. “Citroen will have seen what I can do, so that will have been a part of it. I haven’t had a factory car since I was at Subaru. The support you get in a factory team is nice and I know some of the Citroen engineers, so it won’t be like I’m going in cold. “We’ll be testing in Europe in a couple of weeks and then we’ll go straight to Mexico.” Atkinson was a Subaru works team driver from 2004 until 2008 when the manufacturer withdrew from the series. Since then, he has competed in a mixture of rally events in a variety of cars. Mexico will be his third Citroen outing. He drove a C4 WRC to fifth place for the Citroen Junior team in Ireland in 2009 and drove a DS3 in Neste Oil Rally Finland last year, but failed to finish. In 2012 he also drove a Ford Fiesta in Mexico for Ken Block’s Monster World Rally Team, taking the American squad’s first WRC stage win, a Mini for WRC Team Mini Portugal, in which he scored four top-10 finishes from five starts, and won the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship in a Skoda Fabia. His speed, experience and versatility make Atkinson an ideal candidate for call-ups such as Mexico, but his focus remains on a full-time WRC return. “Hopefully there will be a couple more drives this year. I also want to drive at Rally Australia,” he said. “As yet I haven’t sorted out anything but there’s still a few months, so things can happen.” Rally Guanajuato Mexico, round three of the World Rally Championship, gets underway from Leon on 7 March. chrisatkinsonfiaworldrallychampionship59aslkaoporl