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Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson has produced the best performance of his career to take second place in Rally Mexico.

The podium placing is the third of his career, but his second from his last three starts, following on from his third in Monte Carlo at the season opener in January.

Reigning World Champion Sebastien Loeb took the Mexican title, with Atkinson one minute 6.1 seconds behind. Finn Jari-Matti Latvala was a further 33.6 seconds back, rounding out the top three.

The Australian now has collected 14 World Championship points in 2008 and sits in fourth place on the leader board. Mikko Hirvonen, who finished fourth in this event, leads the way on 21 points, with Loeb on 20 and Latvala third on 16 points.

The result in Mexico is testament to Atkinson’s growing stature in the sport.

Having debuted in 2005, Atkinson immediately showed his class and potential by collecting his first podium placing at Rally Japan that year.

However, the Gold Coast driver then endured some frustrating seasons, but he spent his time gaining experience while Subaru developed its car to make it capable of producing the sort of results he is now stringing together.

Importantly, despite the lean times, Atkinson never lost faith in his own ability. While the arrival of the new Impreza WRC2008 in the months ahead will further assist, Atkinson is making the most of his chances with his current weapon.

On the final day he set up out to preserve his second placing. He started over a minute behind Loeb and with a 65 second buffer over Latvala. His goal was to survive the challenges of the Mexican roads and stay ahead of Latvala. His plan worked well. While he conceded time, he took no risks, and comfortably brought his car back to Leon to collect the spoils of his efforts over three testing days.

“It’s a great start to the year for me and also for the team, and I hope we can keep building on this,” Atkinson said.

“It’s a fantastic result - all the team, the guys on my car, Subaru, everyone did a top job.

“We’re making good steps forward and the car felt really good this weekend.

“We did some work on the dampers after Sweden and that was a big help – they were good here in the heat which is always a tough test.

“Now we look to Argentina and to keep this performance going. The sooner I can win the better!”

Subaru World Rally Team principal, David Richards, was also upbeat about Atkinson.

“Chris did a fantastic job and I firmly believe he can win an event before the end of the year,” said Richards

The next challenge for the crews is Rally Argentina starting on March 27. Another classic round, this year the event returns to the month of March, having been run in May in recent times.

Final results - Rally Mexico

1. Loeb / Elena, Citroen C4 WRC, 3h 33m 29.9.s
2. Atkinson / Prevot, Subaru Impreza WRC2007, +1m 06.1s (diff. to 1st)
3. Latvala / Anttila, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +1m 39.7s
4. Hirvonen / Lehtinen, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +3m 38.7s
5. Solberg / Menkerud, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +4m 57.9s
6. Wilson / Martin, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +6m 28.9s
7. Villagra / Perez Companc, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +19m 03.0s
8. Trivino / Salom *, Peugeot 206 WRC, +21m 17.3s
9. Ogier / Ingrassia, Citroen C2 S1600, +25m 24.9s
10. Molder / Miclotte, Suzuki Swift S1600, +26m 56.8s
12., Solberg / Mills, Subaru Impreza WRC2007, +30m 06.0s

Driver’s Championship points

1 Hirvonen / Lehtinen, 21
2 Loeb / Elena, 20
3 Latvala / Anttila, 16
4 Atkinson / Prévot, 14
5 P Solberg / Mills, 9
5 Galli / Bernacchini, 9
7 Duval / Chevalier, 5
8 HSolberg / Menkerud, 4

Manufacturers’ Championship points

1 BP Ford WRT, 37
2 Subaru World Rally Team, 25
2 Citroen Total WRT, 25
4 Stobart VK M-Sport WRT, 19
5 Munchi’s Ford WRT, 6
6 Suzuki WRT, 5
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