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Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson was forced to treat day two of Rally d’Italia-Sardegna as a testing exercise after rejoining the event under SupeRally rules.

The rock incident yesterday ruined any top five aspirations, so the goal today for the Queenslander became testing his Impreza WRC 2007, looking to unlock the secrets to future success.

He finished the day in 12th place. Sebastien Loeb still leads the way, 36.5 seconds clear of Marcus Gronholm and one minute 30.2 seconds ahead of Mikko Hirvonen in third.

Atkinson spent the opening 71 competitive kilometres of the day as first car on the road, with the unenviable job of sweeping the roads. The second loop over the same three stages brought the total to 142 kilometres of testing for the day.

While the afternoon times improved, Atkinson finished a difficult day knowing more was still required before he would be able to challenge the top cars for outright pace.

“I’m far from satisfied with the pace we have relative to the competition, and clearly we still have plenty of work to do on the handling of the car, but hopefully the data we have gathered today will help the team find a solution,” Atkinson said.

Subaru’s Petter Solberg is sixth, three minutes 02 seconds off the pace.

Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director, Richard Taylor, said: “We’re happy that Petter is still on course to score points, but having been on the pace with Seb (Loeb) and Marcus (Gronholm) for most of Friday, it was disappointing not to be challenging right at the front today.”

“The changes we made for this morning’s loop did not have the effect we anticipated, so for this afternoon’s stages we moved back towards the set-up used on leg one. Clearly there is more to do, but we’ll work hard to find a good set-up for the final six stages tomorrow.”

“Although Chris is outside the top ten, both he and the team can collect a lot of data to help us improve the car for future gravel rallies.”

Another six stages make up the final day of Rally of Italy. The tests are situated to the north and west of Olbia, the rally base. Unusually, there is no midday service halt: instead there is a short stop for refuelling between SS15 and SS16. After the final special stage, Braniatogghiu, the drivers drive to Porto Cervo for the ceremonial finish at 1430hrs (20:30 AET).

Results – End of Leg Two – Rally of Italy

1, Loeb / Elena, CITROEN C4 WRC, 03:12:45.6, 00.0
2, Grönholm / Rautiainen, FORD Focus RS WRC, 03:13:22.1, +36.5
3, Hirvonen / Lehtinen, FORD Focus RS WRC, 03:14:15.8, +01:30.2
4, Sordo / Marti, CITROEN C4 WRC, 03:15:08.0, +02:22.4
5, Solberg / Menkerud, FORD Focus RS WRC, 03:15:18.3, +02:32.7
6, Solberg / Mills, SUBARU Impreza WRC, 03:15:48.2, +03:02.6
7, Gardemeister / Honkanen, MITSUBISHI Lancer WRC, 03:18:07.1, +05:21.5
8, Stohl / Minor, CITROEN Xsara WRC, 03:18:30.4, +05:44.8
9, Hanninen / Markkula, MITSUBISHI Lancer WRC, 03:22:28.9, +09:43.3
10, Latvala / Anttila, FORD Focus RS WRC, 03:25:01.4, +12:15.8

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