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Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson has finished a career best fifth in the 2008 World Rally Championship, after 15 tough events which covered snow and ice, rough gravel and twisting tarmac roads.
 
The Gold Coast driver finished the season with 50 points, made up of five podium finishes. It eclipsed his performance in his two other WRC seasons, when he was ninth (20 points) in 2006, and seventh (31 points) in 2007.
 
Atkinson’s top five result is all the more impressive given that the Subaru World Rally Team debuted their new Impreza WRC2008 mid-way through the season, turning its focus to developing a car that could win in 2009. But Atkinson and team-mate, Petter Solberg, made the most of every opportunity, helping Subaru to finish third in the all-important Manufacturers’ championship.
 
2008 was Atkinson’s third full season in the WRC, but the Australian, co-driven by Belgian Stephane Prevot, started the season in spectacular fashion at the Monte Carlo Rally. In what is widely regarded as the most difficult event in the championship, Atkinson brought his Subaru home in third place, one better than his 2007 result in the tiny principality.
 
He improved on that result with outstanding second placings on the gravel events in Mexico and Argentina, then took another third place, this time at the Jordan Rally, which made its WRC debut in 2008.
 
After five rounds he was in third place in the overall standings, but his luck deserted him in Greece and Turkey when the new Impreza WRC2008 was debuted.
 
However, with two full seasons already under his belt, Atkinson bounced back superbly on the championship’s fastest event, Rally Finland. Over the huge jumps of the “Finnish Grand Prix”, he took his fifth podium finish of the year, and continued to outpace team-mate Solberg, the 2003 World Champion.
 
A fourth place on Subaru’s home event in Japan put Atkinson level with Ford driver, Jari-Matti Latvala, in the championship, but his hopes of retaining that placing in the WRC were dashed when he slid off the road in treacherously icy conditions on the Rally of Great Britain, and retired from the event, sorry and sore, but uninjured.
 
Nevertheless, it has been a stellar season from the 29-year-old, and with further improvements to the Impreza WRC2008 over the off season, he is already looking forward to the new year.
 
“It was unfortunate to finish the year with an accident in Rally GB, but the conditions were diabolical and it was just one of those things that can happen in rallying,” Atkinson said.
 
“We’ve had a great season, though. To finish on the podium in five events demonstrates that we have gone to a new level.

2008 World Rally Championship points
Drivers                                                
1.  S Loeb 122pts                 
2.  M Hirvonen 103pts                 
3.  D Sordo 65pts                
4.  J-M Latvala 58pts                
5.  C Atkinson 50pts                
6.  P Solberg 46pts              

Manufacturers
1.  Citroen Total 191pts
2.  BP Ford Abu Dhabi 173pts
3.  Subaru 98pts
4.  Stobart VK M-Sport Ford  67pts
5.  Suzuki 34pts
6.  Munchi's Ford 22pts

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