Chris holds on to Monte podium

Chris holds on to Monte podiumFrom Subaru Press [ 27/01/2008 ].
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After four days, 19 stages and 362.39 competitive kilometres, Chris Atkinson triumphed in his momentous battle for third to start the season with a well-deserved podium. Petter Solberg achieved his best result on this event in fifth place overall, earning the Subaru World Rally Team second in the Manufacturers’ Championship.



The team started the day well with both Solberg and Atkinson achieving fastest split times as they climbed the notoriously challenging Col de Turini. As predicted, snow lined the side of the route and overnight patches of black ice made the conditions as tricky as always on arguably the most well-known stage in the WRC.

“This weekend has been a great result for us” said Manufacturer Principal Ichiro Kudoh. “It’s exactly what we expected from the team. Petter and Chris both drove extremely well on what is a very difficult rally, and we will use this great start to give us a boost for the rest of season. It’s very important not only for us but for the Subaru fans all over the world.”

Atkinson and Stephané Prévot started the day with a 20.1 second lead over Ford’s Francois Duval. In a fantastic display of commitment and determination reminiscent of Chris’ battle here last year, which also came down to the route around the Monaco harbour, both drivers took their fight to start the WRC season with a podium finish to the very last stage.

After the first passes of the morning’s stages, Atkinson remained ahead despite his lead being reduced to just four seconds. Nearing its nail-biting conclusion, he responded in firm fashion on the second running of the Col de Turini. In improved conditions, his hunger for his first podium since Rally Japan in 2006 saw him complete the stage 32 seconds faster than his first pass to stay ahead of Duval.

The duo entered the final Superspecial around the glamorous Grand Prix circuit that skirts the harbour separated by just 1.1 seconds. Atkinson and Duval recorded exactly the same stage time, which was also the fastest of the field, to finish the first event of the year just 1.1 seconds apart after nearly four hours of competition.

“To finish third is fantastic for me and the team” enthused an overjoyed and relieved Chris Atkinson. “The pressure today was huge, we just had to drive flat out and do everything we could to stay ahead. Duval is such a fast guy, and I always knew today would be really tough going up against him. I lost a few seconds in SS18 with a half spin, and after that I was just going for it. The same thing happened last year when I was fighting for position going into the final stage, but this year is so much more important as I was fighting for a podium. I’m so happy for the team – all the guys have done such a great job and we deserved this. It’s a fantastic start to the year and we’ll celebrate tonight for sure!”

Solberg and Phil Mills delivered a solid and determined performance to achieve their highest finish on Rallye Monte Carlo, demonstrating their strong pace throughout the day. Pushing hard in the difficult conditions, they had no problems on a rally that has historically raised difficulties for them and crossed the finish line on the harbour front fifth. Taking advantage of the improved grip for the second passes, the pair consistently finished within the top six to retain a comfortable fifth position overall, helping the Subaru World Rally Team into second in the Manufacturers’ Championship.

“Today has been good for us and the team for sure” said a satisfied Petter Solberg. “Fifth is good, and it’s my highest finish on this rally. We have some good points which are important to us and we have a lot of fastest splits today, which is very good. This weekend was difficult with all the ice and the slippery surface, but it’s a good rally. There are a lot of fans, especially in Monaco for the Superspecial, and it’s a great atmosphere. I’m happy for Chris in third, and that as well is of course good for the team. We’ve made a good start to the season and we must keep pushing for more good results.”

The cars were transported from Valence to the principality last night as teams started the four hour journey as soon as day three had been completed. Forty crews restarted the final day of Rallye Monte Carlo, starting with an early morning recce of the Monaco Superspecial, before departing for the initial remote service in the town of Gilette, 45 kilometres to the north of Monaco.

Final results
1    Loeb / Elena           Citroen C4           3h 39m 17.0s
2    Hirvonen / Lehtinen           Ford Focus RS WRC07           2m 34.4s (diff. to 1st)
3    Atkinson / Prévot           Subaru Impreza WRC2007           2m 58.6s
4    Duval / Chevailler           Ford Focus RS WRC07           2m 59.7s
5    Solberg / Mills           Subaru Impreza WRC2007           4m 40.9s
6    Galli / Bernacchini           Ford Focus RS WRC07           8m 46.5s
7    Cuoq / Janvier           Peugeot 307 WRC           10m 24.8s
8    Andersson / Andersson           Suzuki SX4           11m 19.5s
9    Solberg / Menkerud           Ford Focus RS WRC07           12m 43.6s
10    Wilson / Orr           Ford Focus RS WRC07           14m 00.1s