Atkinson, a 32-year-old from Australia who has finished on the podium in the FIA World Rally Championship on six occasions, has been called up to replace Armindo Araujo in the Motorsport Italia-run squad for the remainder of the 2012 campaign.
“Atko’s a really top guy all the way from Australia, fast and experienced and he’s going to take over as the team’s number one driver, flanked by the oh-so-experienced Belgian Stephane Prevot for the rest of the season.
“They’re a killer combination and given how fantastic the fans have been in supporting WRC Team MINI Portugal all year we really hope they’ll be equally supportive of Atko and Prevot when they join us.”
Atkinson will follow Dani Sordo as only the second driver to have driven all the current latest-generation World Rally Cars from Citroen, Ford and MINI when he tests this weekend.
“It’ll be his first time in a MINI on the test this weekend, but we’re confident that Chris can handle any car he lays his hands on and his MINI will love him within minutes,” said De Pianto. “We’re all very much looking forward to working with him and Stephane and seeing what surprises Rallye Deutschland has to offer.”
Atkinson has taken part on two rounds of the world championship this season. He took part on Rally Guanajuato Mexico in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC but retired. He was on course for a points finish on Neste Oil Rally Finland in a Qatar World Rally Team Citroen DS3 WRC but hit trouble and languished in 39th at the finish.