Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson has produced a superb drive under enormous pressure to finished third in Rallye Mone Carlo.

The podium finish is the second of his World Rally Championship career, the first was in Rally Japan in 2005, his debut year in the series.

It is just the third time that an Australian has finished in the top three at a World Rally Championship event. Besides Atkinson, the only other man to do it was Ross Dunkerton at Rally New Zealand in 1992.

Sebastien Loeb won the event by two minutes 34.4 seconds from Mikko Hirvonen. But the real story of the rally was the battle for third between Atkinson and Francois Duval which raged across the final three days of the rally and came to a thrilling finale with the Gold Coast driver holding on to defeat the Belgian driver by just 1.1 seconds.

Atkinson started the final day 14 seconds clear of Duval, but was well aware of the challenge that would come from the experienced tarmac specialist across the final five stages of the event.

Duval won the opening stage of the morning and immediately reduced Atkinson’s buffer to just eight seconds.

On the next stage, the Gold Coast driver lost another four seconds, and with three stages to go, his quest for a podium placing was under extreme threat.

Duval then won the next two stages, but Atkinson was driving like a man processed and as the cars returned to Monaco for a sprint around the streets, the Subaru driver was still ahead, but his buffer was just 1.1 seconds.

Atkinson held his nerve across the final stage, matching Duval’s time, and after four days, 19 stages and 362.39 competitive kilometres was able to join Loeb and Hirvonen on the podium.

The Queenslander was thrilled and relieved to finish third after enduring a number of frustrating seasons where his efforts have often not received the rewards deserved.

“To finish third is fantastic for me and the team,” said Atkinson.

“The pressure today was huge, we just had to drive flat out and do everything we could to stay ahead."

"Duval is such a fast guy, and I always knew today would be really tough going up against him."

“I lost a few seconds in the second last stage with a half spin, and after that I was just going for it. The same thing happened last year in Monte Carlo when I was fighting for position going into the final stage, but this year is so much more important as I was fighting for a podium.”

“I’m so happy for the team – all the guys have done such a great job and we deserved this. It’s a fantastic start to the year and we’ll celebrate tonight for sure!”

In just two weeks crews head to the city of Karlstad for Rally Sweden.

Rallye Monte Carlo - Final results

1., Loeb / Elena, Citroen C4, 3h 39m 17.0s
2.,Hirvonen / Lehtinen, Ford Focus RS WRC07, +2m 34.4s (diff. to 1st)
3. Atkinson / Prévot, Subaru Impreza WRC2007, +2m 58.6s
4. Duval / Chevailler, Ford Focus RS WRC07, +2m 59.7s
5. Solberg / Mills, Subaru Impreza WRC2007, +4m 40.9s
6. Galli / Bernacchini, Ford Focus RS WRC07, +8m 46.5s
7. Cuoq / Janvier, Peugeot 307 WRC, +10m 24.8s
8. Andersson / Andersson, Suzuki SX4, +11m 19.5s
9. Solberg / Menkerud, Ford Focus RS WRC07, +12m 43.6s
10. Wilson / Orr, Ford Focus RS WRC07, +14m 00.1s

Driver's Championship
1  Loeb / Elena, 10
2  Hirvonen / Lehtinen, 8
3  Atkinson / Prévot, 6
4  Duval / Chevailler, 5
5  Solberg / Mills, 4
6  Galli / Bernacchini, 3
7  Cuoq / Janvier, 2
8  Andersson / Andersson, 1

Manufacturers' Championship
1  Citroen Total WRT, 11
2  Subaru World Rally Team, 10
3  Stobart VK M-Sport WRT, 8
4  BP Ford WRT, 8
5  Suzuki WRT, 2
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