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Subaru rally driver, Chris Atkinson, had an early end to his Rally de Portugal campaign when his car left the road on the third stage of Leg Two, forcing him to retire from the event.

Seven hundred metres in from the start of Special Stage 10, in slippery conditions after overnight rain, Atkinson was negotiating a complex sequence of sixth gear corners when he missed a pace-note and drove off the stage at high speed.

Atkinson and co-driver Glenn Macneall were uninjured in the incident, but when their car eventually came to rest it was too badly damaged for them to continue and the pair retired from the leg.

It ended a tough day for the pair. On the day’s opening stage Atkinson’s car slid into a ditch 10 kilometres from the start and emerged with a radiator plugged with mud. His engine switched to a safe-mode to keep the temperature under control, but at the expense of some power, and he finished ninth fastest on that stage.

"It hasn’t been the best weekend, that’s for sure,” Atkinson said. “It’s a great shame because I thought this rally would suit my driving style and the car.”

“This morning I struggled with the handling a bit, we had some balance and understeer problems and I was struggling to get the car turned in properly – especially on such slippery roads.”

“We started the stage (SS10) pretty well but in hindsight I was thinking too much about the feeling, and not concentrating on the road. I missed a corner note, got on the wrong line and just went straight off.”

“Clearly the team and I have some work to do before we find a good, balanced set-up for wet and dry conditions. And while we experimented a bit here, it’s not an ideal environment in which to test. We have a proper test planned shortly which should give me the opportunity to work on the set-up specifically.”

“Petter and I have shown that the outright speed is there, but this is only the second rally for the new car and clearly there’s a lot to learn.”

With one day to go, Sebastien Loeb still leads the way by 40.5 seconds from Marcus Gronholm, with Mikko Hirvonen third one minute 57.3 seconds off the pace. Solberg is a further 13 seconds back and is targeting a podium finish tomorrow.

Results – end of Leg Two – Rally de Portugal

1, Loeb / Elena, Citroën C4, 03:00:25.5, 00.0
2, Grönholm / Rautiainen, Ford Focus RS WRC 06, 03:01:06.0, +40.5
3, Hirvonen / Lehtinen, Ford Focus RS WRC 06, 03:02:22.8, +01:57.3
4, Solberg / Mills, Subaru Impreza WRC 2007, 03:02:35.8, +02:10.3
5, Sordo / Marti, Citroën C4, 03:04:24.9, +03:59.4
6, Latvala / Anttila, Ford Focus RS WRC 06, 03:05:15.7, +04:50.2
7, Solberg / Menkerud, Ford Focus RS WRC 06, 03:07:14.5, +06:49.0
8, Carlsson / Giraudet, Citroën Xsara WRC, 03:07:21.1, +06:55.6
9, Galli / Bernacchni, Citroën Xsara WRC, 03:08:38.3, +08:12.8
10, Stohl / Minor, Citroën Xsara WRC, 03:11:46.1, +11:20.6

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