Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson has produced a gritty drive on the second day of Rallye Monte Carlo to remain in fourth place with two days remaining in the opening round of the 2008 World Rally Championship.

Leading the way is Sebastien Loeb, with a handy 56,6 second lead over Daniel Sordo. Mikko Hirvonen is third, one minute 22.8 seconds off the pace while Atkinson is another 59.8 seconds back and two minutes 22.6 seconds off the lead.

The Australian’s day turned into a battle with Francois Duval.  The Ford driver started the day 14.9 seconds behind the Atkinson and after the first four stages of the day was just 3.4 seconds back. But the Subaru driver responded and by the end of the day he had re-established the 14 second buffer.

Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg is sixth, three minutes 9.6 seconds behind Loeb.

Warm overnight temperatures meant there was no ice to contend with in the morning, but the roads remained incredibly slippery and were a huge test for drivers and cars.

Atkinson was fifth fastest on each of the first four stages of the day, but then increased the pace in his Impreza WRC2007 to produce two third placings on the final two stages of the day.

The Gold Coast driver is now in a good position for a strong points result with two days of the classic rally remaining.

“I’m happy with today – we started OK this morning, and then made some setup changes during the midday service which worked better,” Atkinson said.

“In the afternoon loop we pushed hard to finish with two third fastest stage times. There’s a long way to go, but we’re in a good position and going well.”

“Tomorrow’s stages are very fast. I went well on them last year although now there are slight changes to the routes, but I am looking forward to continuing the fight tomorrow.”

Saturday heralds the final day of competition from the rally’s Valence service park before teams travel to Monaco for Sunday’s five stages.

Day three is the longest and one of the toughest challenges for drivers yet. Starting in the dark, there is a mix of very quick and some of the most technical stages. The weather is expected to be dry and between six and 11 degrees Celsius with a chance of overnight ice in the morning.

Rallye Monte Carlo - Results after day two

1. Loeb / Elena, Citroen C4, 1h 36m 44.9s
2. Sordo / Marti, Citroen C4, +56.6s (diff. to 1st)
3. Hirvonen / Lehtinen, Ford Focus RS WRC07, +1m 22.8s
4. Atkinson / Prévot, Subaru Impreza WRC2007, +2m 28.6s
5. Duval / Chevailler, Ford Focus RS WRC07, +2m 42.6s
6. Solberg / Mills, Subaru Impreza WRC2007, +3m 09.6s
7. Galli / Bernacchini, Ford Focus RS WRC07, +5m 21.1s
8. Cuoq / Janvier, Peugeot 307 WRC, +5m 27.9s
9. Latvala / Anttila, Ford Focus RS WRC07, +6m 55.8s
10. Solberg / Menkerud, Ford Focus RS WRC07, +6m 58.7s
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