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Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson has finished Rally Catalunya in eighth place, maintaining a consistent pace across the final day but unable to move up the leaders’ board during the final four competitive stages.

Honours for the weekend went to Sebastien Loeb, who finished 13.8 seconds ahead of Daniel Sordo with Marcus Gronholm third, another 39.4 seconds back.

Gronholm retains the series lead with 96 points, but is now only six clear of the fast-finishing Loeb with four events remaining.

Atkinson added one championship point for his eighth and remains in seventh place on the overall points tally on 26. The 27-year-old has now collected points in eight of the 12 events this season.

With the next round of the WRC less than seven days away in Corsica, Atkinson today opted to experiment in the hope of unlocking more pace for the fresh challenge ahead.

While the changes didn’t produce more speed, they added to Atkinson’s understanding of his Impreza WRC2007.

“This morning we made some changes to see how they affected the car'" Atkinson said.

"We decided on big changes so the effects were more obvious, and while they made the car a little slower I definitely learnt something this morning which is great for me going into Corsica.”

“At least we got the car to the finish okay, but I’d like to have got a better placing than eighth.”

“Unfortunately this weekend we weren’t able to match the times we set in Germany. But it’s certainly not been a bad rally, and there’s a lot to be optimistic about ahead of the next asphalt events.”

“I think Corsica and Ireland will suit us a little better than here, so I’m looking forward to them.”

With Atkinson’s fellow Subaru drivers Petter Solberg finishing sixth and Xavier Pons ninth, it was not the weekend the team had been looking for according to Subaru World Rally Team managing director Richard Taylor.

“We’ve got all three drivers to the end of the rally in the top ten, however the results are not what we wanted or expected before the rally,” Taylor said.

“We have however learnt more about the car on asphalt and expect to be able to show some further improvement in Corsica next week.”

Corsica will bring its own unique challenges. Stretching away from the service park, which is nestled against the sea in the port of Ajaccio, the asphalt stages are rough and bumpy, not at all like the new and smooth surfaces in Spain.

Results – Rally Catalunya

1, Loeb / Elena, CITROËN C4, 03:22:50.5, 00.0
2, Sordo / Marti, CITROËN C4, 03:23:04.3, +13.8
3, Gronholm / Rautiainen, FORD Focus RS WRC 07, 03:23:30.3, +39.8
4, Hirvonen / Lehtinen, FORD Focus RS WRC 07,  03:24:16.3 ,  +01:25.8
5, Duval / Pivato, CITROËN Xsara WRC, 03:25:19.2 ,  +02:28.7
6, Solberg / Mills, SUBARU Impreza WRC 06, 03:25:44.6, +02:54.1
7, Latvala / Anttila, FORD Focus RS WRC 06, 03:26:28.7, +03:38.2
8, Atkinson / Prevot, SUBARU Impreza WRC 06, 03:27:12.9, +04:22.4
9, Pons / Amigo, SUBARU Impreza WRC 06, 03:27:54.6, +05:04.1
10, Solberg / Menkerud, FORD Focus RS WRC 06, 03:33:22.7, +10:32.2

Driver's Championship

1, M Grönholm, 96
2, S Loeb, 90
3, M Hirvonen, 74
4, D Sordo, 39
5, P Solberg, 34
6, H Solberg, 28
7, C Atkinson, 26
8, J Latvala, 19

Manufacturers' Championship

1, BP-Ford World Rally Team, 170
2, Citroen Total World Rally Team, 131
3, Subaru World Rally Team, 64
4, Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team, 57
5, OMV Kronos Citroen World Rally Team, 39
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