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Chris Atkinson’s hopes of further World Rally Championship points to enhance his driver’s title aspirations were dashed early on day two of the Acropolis Rally when his new Subaru Impreza WRC2008 experienced a minor electrical problem.

Sitting in eighth place overnight, Atkinson started the day strongly, setting the fourth fastest time on the opening 30 kilometre long stage.

But at the beginning of the second stage, Atkinson was unable to get his car started. He and co-driver Stéphane Prévot tried desperately to get it going, eventually they did, but the pair ran out of late time and were forced out of the day’s remaining stages.

The issue was identified to be a simple electrical problem with the starter motor.

While Atkinson’s demise was frustrating, his team had plenty to be pleased about with fellow-Subaru driver, Petter Solberg, sitting in second place in his Impreza WRC2008. Sebastien Loeb leads the way by 28.7 seconds from Solberg, with Henning Solberg sitting in third place, 36.6 seconds behind his brother.

Atkinson is officially in 25th place and will restart under SuperRally rules tomorrow.

The Queenslander is currently third in the Championship, but will fail to add to his points in this round, the seventh of the series.

“It’s disappointing to retire of course, but we now use tomorrow to do more testing,” Atkinson said.

“We could have got some good points this weekend, and to have a small technical problem like that stop us at this stage of the rally is annoying. But that’s life, and we’ll just have to work harder at the next few rallies and get some points back.

“It’ll be rough tomorrow so we have to look after the car, but we’ll be pushing for sure.”

While feeling for Atkinson, SWRT principal David Richards was excited by the potential of the Impreza WRC2008 on debut.

“We have seen a genuinely solid performance from Petter and Phil today, on what it is easy to forget is only the car’s second day of competition,” said Richards.

“We came here treating this event as part of an extended test, and it is exceeding our expectations. We are learning lots all the time, and we’ll continue this tomorrow with both cars when Chris restarts. Petter’s drive today was very smart and he did exactly what was needed, looking after his tyres to move into a deserving second position.”

The final day in Greece is actually longer than the first at 110.74 competitive kilometres, making for another full day of action in which the leaderboard can be turned on its head.

The final seven stages, brought to a finale by the second running of the short Tatoi spectator test, are just as rock-strewn as previous days to keep the competition wide open until the very end.
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