Subaru?s recent decision to pull out of the World Rally Championship series in 2009 had left our very own Chris Atkinson without a drive. Thankfully, the folks over at Citroen know a talented driver when they see one.
Chris Atkinson will join the Citroen World Rally Championship Team for the first round of the 2009 World Rally Championship, opening up the possibility of a stint at the wheel of 2008 World Championship winning Citroen C4 WRC at more events in 2009.
Atkinson has been a consistent performer for Subaru since joining the team in 2005, and his move to Citroen has been made possible by Citroen?s decision to expand its motorsport programme with a ?Manufacturers 2? team.
The ?M2? team will run alongside the main team of Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo.
?We are absolutely thrilled to be able to confirm the Citro?n Junior Team as an M2 entry in the 2009 World Rally Championship. As required by the regulations, the Citro?n Junior Team will contest at least eight events in order to qualify for Manufacturers' points. Conrad Rautenbach, Evgeny Novikov and S?bastien Ogier will form the mainstay of the line-up, while Chris Atkinson is due to take part in the first round of the New Year, the Rally Ireland, in a Citro?n C4 WRC," said Citro?n Sport Director Olivier Quesnel.
Citroen is hoping that its new ?program? will become a breeding ground for new drivers to develop their skills at the highest level of the sport behind the wheel of the all-conquering Citroen C4 WRC.
"It is no coincidence that we have chosen to employ the word 'Junior' in the team's official name. It is an M2 team which will predominantly run drivers who are currently learning the sport, and their average age will be 22. Our aims are to develop the commercial side which we began in 2008 and also enable our crews to benefit from our expertise. The programme will allow them to gain valuable extra experience which will put them in good stead for the next step of their career," said Citro?n Sport Technologies Manager Beno?t Nogier.
The Citro?n Junior Team drivers
Conrad Rautenbach: born November 12, 1984, in Zimbabwe.
Rally debut: 2001 (Group N Toyota Corolla)
WRC debut: 2004, Monte Carlo (Ford Puma, retired)
WRC starts: 43.
Starts in a WRC car: 16.
Best result: 4th (Argentina, 2008, driving a Citro?n C4 WRC).
S?bastien Ogier: born December 17, 1983, in Gap (France).
Rally debut: 2006 (Peugeot's Volant 206 single-make series). Member of the Rallye Jeunes FFSA team.
WRC debut: 2008, Mexico (Citro?n C2 Super 1600, 8th overall, 1st J-WRC).
WRC starts: 8.
Starts in a WRC car: 1 (Wales, 2008, driving a C4 WRC, 26th overall).
2008 Junior World Champion driving a Citro?n C2 Super 1600.
Best result: 8th (Mexico, 2008, driving a Citro?n C2 Super 1600).
Evgeny Novikov: born September 19, 1990, in Moscow (Russia).
Rally debut: 2005 (as a co-driver sitting alongside his father).
Debut as a driver: 2006.
WRC debut: 2007, Wales Rally GB (Mitsubishi Lancer, retired).
WRC starts: 7.
Starts in a WRC car: 0.
2006 Russian Champion. At the age of 16, he led the opening leg of the 2007 Rally Russia before retiring with engine failure. 13th, 2008 Production World Rally Championship.
Best result: 11th (Japan, 2008, driving a Mitsubishi).
Chris Atkinson: born November 18, 1979, in Bega (Australia).
Rally debut: 2000 (Toyota Corolla).
WRC debut: 2004, New Zealand (Subaru Impreza, retired).
WRC starts: 66 (all in a Subaru Impreza).
Starts in a WRC car: 62.
Best result: 2nd (Mexico and Argentina, 2008, driving a Subaru Impreza).