The Impreza WRC2008 gave a taste today of what is to come for the Subaru World Rally Team as Petter Solberg and Phil Mills delivered a solid performance to finish second overall, and a mere 28.7 seconds from the lead. It is the great step forward the team have been working so hard to achieve on the new car’s debut rally.

It was a very strong start for both Impreza WRC2008s this morning. An exuberant Solberg and Mills were fastest for most of the opening stage, and Atkinson and Prévot were second fastest only to their team-mates at the mid-point.

“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 David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team Principal. “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.”

Today was the longest and the toughest of the rally, and to compound the challenge for crews it started with the longest stage of the event, the 30km Aghii Theodori test. For those who emerged unscathed from the rocks of car-breaking proportion, the sweltering temperature and very hard road surface quickly made tyre wear an issue that proved decisive in shaping the leaderboard.

Solberg’s fast yet measured pace paid dividends as the Norwegian stayed strong until the end, chasing down Citroen’s Dani Sordo all afternoon to grab second in the final stage. “It’s been an incredible day. Second is not bad, not bad at all!” Solberg said. “There have been big expectations, and this is so important for me, but even more important for Subaru, the team and all the fans. There is more to come, and I wasn’t taking any risks today, but this car will win definitely. That’s for sure! We’ll take it step by step as it is a long day tomorrow and anything can happen. My brother is third also – it’s not very often that two brothers are on the podium!”

Team-mates Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot were less fortunate than the joyous younger sibling, although it was neither rocks nor tyres that spelled their end. After matching the times of the front-runners during the day’s opener, it was to be the smallest of teething problems that befell the Impreza.

Atkinson was unable to start his car before the second test of the day with a simple electrical problem with the starter motor. He and Prévot tried desperately but were unable to continue the remaining stages. The duo will restart tomorrow morning for the final day of competition.

“It’s disappointing to retire of course, but we now use tomorrow to do more testing” commented Chris Atkinson. “It’ll be rough so we have to look after the car, but we’ll be pushing for sure.”

Results after Leg 2:

Pos  Driver        Car      Time
1. Loeb Citroen 2h48:11.1
2. P Solberg Subaru + 28.7
3. H Solberg Ford + 1:05.3
4. Hirvonen Ford + 3:01.2
5. Aava Citroen + 4:11.6
6. Wilson Ford + 4:22.8
7. Sordo Citroen + 5:33.6
8. Latvala Ford + 8:51.3
9. Rautenbach Citroen + 8:58.0
10. Gardemeister Suzuki + 9:13.0

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