A couple of bits of news drew me out to make a short comment on the status of a certain WRC driver.
Chris Atkinson has resigned for Subaru until the end of 2009, in fact Subaru took up the option in his contract the day it came availible. And more to the point, Chris is being paid to drive. It’s that last point that’s highly signifigant and basically has declared Subaru’s hand. Three drivers up to now were being paid to drive in WRC – Sebastian Loeb, Marcus Gronholm and Petter Solberg. A few drivers were ‘free’ drives, ie they personally were not paying the bills. Mikko Hirvonen is the best example altho I suspect that will change soon. most WRC drivers pay the bills themselves or have big sponsors. A good example is Xavier Pons, who paid for his drive in Subary.
Chris was rumored to have paid a lot of cash to get his seat in 2005. He didnt pay in 2006 altho Subary Australia covered his bills. Not 100 % sure of 2007 but given he was a full time SWRT driver I suspect he was a ‘free’ ride. Now…. professional and covered till 2009. Given that Atkinson has shown that now he is allowed to have his own setup and engineers are listening to him that he can make the most out of a turd of a car like the 2007 Subaru is, plus consistently outpacing a known quantity like Petter Solberg, it says a lot what Subaru are thinking of the 27 year old.
He has shown a lot of pace on tarmac that Solberg doesn’t have, is just as fast on gravel, is finally takign his part in testing and development – and note that Subaru don’t any longer make the No 7 car a highlight on the SWRT page. Solberg has a contract until 2008.
Thinking about the future? SWRT firmly believe they have a real potential champion? I dont really know and I wont say as I am a proudAussie at heart and a big Atkinson fan. Bias and all that.
But I can say I want to see Atkinson win. He has the potential, Subaru have shown some big faith and he will need to deliver sooner than later. Deliver means rally wins. I would like to hope this year but the car really is shit so…. 2008? Tall order with Loeb and possibly Gronholm still around. But he can match even Loeb at times so who knows.
GO YOU FUCKING AUSSIE LEGEND!