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Despite adopting a cautious approach at the Rally of Turkey, Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson has been forced to retire after the opening day’s sixth stage when his car suffered suspension damage from the treacherous roads.

Atkinson was sitting in tenth place, still within striking distance of a good points result, after nursing the car through the morning’s first pass of the stages.

On the second pass the roads had deteriorated badly, and early during the sixth stage the Gold Coast driver’s Impreza WRC2008 suffered significant front suspension damage.

Despite losing time throughout the stage he managed to get to the finish. However, with a 9.9 kilometre stage to follow and 75 kilometre road section back to the mid-afternoon service, it was deemed impossible for Atkinson to complete the distance, so the decision to retire was made before the start of SS7.

Nearly two thirds of the 16 World Rally Cars in the field felt Turkey’s bite in just three stages, demonstrating precisely the nature of the Turkish challenge.

Atkinson will restart the Saturday stages under SuperRally rules, spending the remaining two days testing his new Impreza WRC2008.

In an incredibly tight tussle at the front of the field, Sebasiten Loeb leads the way just one second clear of Henning Solberg, with Jari-Matti Latvala only another one tenth of a second further back in third. Gigi Galli is fourth, only 2.2 seconds behind Loeb.

Next in fifth is Mikko Hirvonen, 6.8 seconds behind, while Atkinson’s Subaru team mate Petter Solberg is sixth, 49.1 seconds behind the front runner.

Atkinson is officially in 26th place, now 15.33.1 seconds off the pace.

“We weren’t pushing too hard this morning, and things were looking good,” Atkinson said.

“We would have been in the points by the end of the day. The plan was to make no mistakes and we did that, so it’s a shame to be stopped by something that’s out of our hands.

“We’ll use tomorrow to do a little bit of testing and see how the car feels, and then see how quick we can push.”

Day two of the Rally of Turkey consists of seven stages, including the second running of the 2.6km Antalya spectator stage in the heart of Turkey’s southerly tourist destination.

At a total of 137.66 competitive kilometres, it is the second longest of the event. The stages take crews into the same area of the Anatolian mountains as other days, stretching down the coast to the town of Kumluca.

Results – end of day 1 – Rally of Turkey

1. LOEB, CITROEN, 02:02:35.2,
2. SOLBERG, FORD, 02:02:36.2, +01.0 se
3. LATVALA, FORD, 02:02:36.3, +01.2
4. GALLI, FORD, 02:02:37.4, +2.2
5. HIRVONEN, FORD, 02:02:42.0, +6.8
6. SOLBERG, SUBARU, 02:03:24.3, +49.1
7. WILSON, FORD, 02:03:41.1, 1:05.9
8. SORDO, CITROEN, 02:03:42.0, +1:06.8

26. ATKINSON, SUBARU, +15:33.1
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