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Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson sits in eighth place in Rally Catalunya, working his way back into the top ten after a difficult start to the opening day of the event.

On the first competitive stage conditions were damp and slippery and Atkinson took a gamble on harder tyres. It didn’t pay off, and while the Gold Coast driver finished sixth fastest in the first stage, he experienced a serious lack of grip in the second. He overshot a junction and, while the car was undamaged, he was in 11th place by the time he finished the stage.

A change of tyre at the first service allowed Atkinson and co-driver Stephane Prevot to return to posting top-six stage times. They climbed the overall standings steadily to eighth at the end of leg one, 11.0 seconds behind Jari-Matti Latvala in seventh.

Leading the way is Sebastien Loeb, 11.3 seconds clear of Daniel Sordo. Marcus Gronholm is third, 50.6 seconds off the lead, while Miko Hirvonen is just 2.6 seconds further back in fourth.

Petter Solberg is the best of the Subaru World Rally Team trio. He is in 6th place in his Impreza WRC2007, one minute 35.4 seconds behind Loeb. Atkinson is two minutes 20.2 seconds off the pace, but nearly one minute ahead of Xavier Pons in ninth.

Atkinson put the day down to a learning experience.

“It’s been okay,” Atkinson said.

“We didn’t get off to the best start, with the wrong tyre choice for the opening section, and the changeable weather and the rain this afternoon have made it quite a tricky day all round.”

“But it’s good to get through, and good to gain experience in these conditions, which I guess I don’t really have much of on asphalt. “It’s all valuable knowledge.”

“We’ll make some changes to the car tonight and see if we can’t go a little quicker tomorrow. I think we can move up a place, but beyond that depends on how good it all feels.”

SWRT managing director, Richard Taylor, is hoping for better days ahead.

"Following our recent good pace on asphalt in Germany and in tests here in Spain, today has been disappointing for the team.”

“The results have not been what we expected, so tonight we will check all our data very carefully and start tomorrow afresh with a view to getting all our drivers higher up the leaderboard.”

Leg two takes the drivers on an anticlockwise loop to the north west of service park, consisting of four stages every one of which is run twice. Typically scenic, leg two includes Coll del Grau, the closest the WRC gets to a race track, and La Serra d’Almos, the shakedown route run in reverse and the shortest of the rally at only 4.11km.

Results – End Leg One, Rally Catalunya

1, Loeb / Elena, CITROËN C4, 1:22:16.5, 00.0
2, Sordo / Marti, CITROËN C4, 1:22:27.8, +11.3
3, Grönholm / Rautiainen, FORD Focus RS WRC 07, 1:23:07.1, +50.6
4, Hirvonen / Lehtinen, FORD Focus RS WRC 07, 1:23:09.7, +53.2
5, Duval / Pivato, CITROËN XSARA WRC, 1:23:42.3, +1:25.8
6, Solberg / Mills, SUBARU Impreza WRC2007, 1:23:51.9, +1:35.4
7, Latvala / Anttila, FORD Focus RS WRC 06, 1:24:25.7, +2:09.2
8, Atkinson / Prevot, SUBARU Impreza WRC2007, 1:24:36.7, +2:20.2
9, Pons / Amigo, SUBARU Impreza WRC2007, 1:25:34.8, +3:18.3
10, Solberg / Menkerud, FORD Focus RS WRC 06, 1:27:59.8, +5:43.3
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