Chris Atkinson will return to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge with the Proton team on next week's Sanremo Rally, replacing P-G Andersson for the Malaysian manufacturer.
Atkinson will drive the sister Satria Neo S2000 to Proton's IRC regular Giandomenico Basso on the final asphalt round of the season. With his program biased toward the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, Atkinson has not competed for Proton since winning the Rally of Whangarei two months ago and the team was keen to get him back in the car.
"We wanted to give Chris some competitive time in the car ahead of the Hokkaido Rally, which is the weekend after Sanremo," said team principal Chris Mellors. "Beyond that, we'd always promised him another run in the IRC and he's shown some very good form on asphalt rallies in the past."
Atkinson contested the Monte Carlo Rally at the start of the year, but retired early from the season-opener.
Mellors scotched speculation that Andersson had been dropped from the team, adding: "Nothing of the sort. Like I said, we promised Chris another IRC run which will be Sanremo and P-G will be back for Scotland. Let's not forget, Chris knows this part of the world pretty well – he only lives down the road. In fact, he can probably get the bus to the service park!"
Atkinson said: "It's been a while since I was in the car, so the chance to race at a classic rally like Sanremo is fantastic. I did the recce for the event a long time ago and I have some idea what the roads are going to be like. It's good to have a teammate who has won the event before, though. I'll be working quite closely with him in the pre-event test and on tire choices and things like that."
The Proton team will test in Italy on Monday. Atkinson can clinch this year's FIA APRC title the following week on the Hokkaido Rally – and Proton is likely to seal the manufacturers' crown.