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Chris Atkinson has completed a strong start to the second half of the World Rally Championship season by finishing in fourth place at Rally Finland this weekend.

The Australian driver was a picture of consistency, holding down fourth place at the end of each of the three days of competition.  The 27-year-old got off to an excellent start when he set the fastest time on Thursday’s first stage and maintained a rapid pace for the rest of the event.

Rally Finland honours went to Marcus Gronholm, who finished 24.2 seconds clear of Ford team mate, Mikko Hirvonen. Reigning world champion Sebastien Loeb was third, one minute 9.9 seconds off the pace.

Atkinson took no risks today to preserve his fourth placing while extending his buffer over fifth placegetter, Henning Solberg. The Gold Coast driver was three minutes 2.8 seconds behind Gronholm and one minute 26.6 seconds ahead of Solberg.

The result equalled Atkinson’s best placing of the season, recorded back at the opening round in Monte Carlo. The Queenslander was the best of the Subaru World Rally Team drivers, ahead of Xavier Pons in sixth and Petter Solberg, who withdrew yesterday with mechanical issues.

Atkinson collected a further five championship points for his troubles. His tally of twenty after nine rounds equals his total from the whole of the 2006 season.

Gronholm sits on top of the points table with 75, ahead of Loeb on 62 and Hirvonen on 57.

Atkinson was pleased with the result and with the improved performance of his Impreza WRC2007.

“I’m pleased with the way we have gone this rally and think it is encouraging for the team,” Atkinson said.

“We just tried to keep the pace of the car right through the weekend. To be able to do those times for the first day and a half was great, and let’s hope we can continue it for the rest of the year.”

“The car is performing well on tarmac at the moment, so we’re confident we can continue this pace in Germany.”

Subaru World Rally Team managing director, Richard Taylor, was pleased with Atkinson’s performance, one of the best of his career.

“Chris has done a superb job for the team today, and his fourth place is well deserved,” Taylor said.

“His objective for the leg was to defend his position and get the car to the finish and he did exactly what was required. Chris can be very happy with his performance in Finland; he has driven consistently, set a fastest time and hasn’t put a foot wrong all weekend.”

The next round of the WRC is Rallye Deutschland, which starts in only 12 days time. The tenth round in the series is an asphalt rally but is certainly not a conventional sealed-surface event. Based in the city of Trier, the route takes in a wide variety of conditions, from fast and narrow vineyard roads in the Mosel region, to the notoriously rough broken concrete tracks of the Baumholder military ranges. Leg one starts on Friday 17 August.

Final Results – Rally Finland

1, GRÖNHOLM, Ford, 02:57:26.1,
2, HIRVONEN, Ford, 02:57:50.3, +24.2
3, LOEB, Citroën, 02:58:36.0, +01:09.9
4, ATKINSON, Subaru, 03:00:28.9, +03:02.8
5, H SOLBERG, Ford, 03:01:55.5, +04:29.4
6, PONS, Subaru, 03:04:26.6, +07:00.5
7, AAVA, Mitsubishi, 03:05:05.7, +07:39.6
8, ÖSTBERG, Subaru, 03:06:58.0, +09:31.9
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