Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson sits in fifteenth place after the opening leg of Rallye Deutschland, on a day that saw him mix blistering pace with a healthy dose of misfortune.

His chance of a top outright result ended early when he spun off the road on the day’s second stage and took seven minutes to get his car back on the road. The Queenslander’s Impreza was mechanically undamaged but remained beached until sufficient spectators arrived to push it back onto the road.

But on the day’s final test, Atkinson showed what might have been by producing a stunning drive to win the 21 kilometre stage, beating home a hotly contested field by 1.4 seconds.

At the end of Leg One, after six stages across 128.6 competitive kilometres, Francois Duval leads Sebastien Loeb by just 1.3 seconds, with Marcus Gronholm third, 17.4 seconds behind the leader.

Atkinson’s Subaru team mates, Xavier Pons and Petter Solberg, are seventh and ninth. Solberg also had a spin after showing good early pace.

With two days remaining, Atkinson is 8 minutes 19.4 seconds behind, having moved up from 90th place after his early mishap.

By the end of the day, the Queenslander was excited by his pace in the new Impreza WRC2007.

“The feeling in the car is excellent,” said Atkinson. “There was no special push in that last stage, I just drove to how the car felt, and that’s the time we got!”

“We didn’t do too much damage to the car during our off on SS2, but the damage was done to the time.”

“We went well in the first stage, and were going well in the second in the split times, but I cut a corner a little too much and just spun into an open field. I thought we would be OK, but unfortunately there was a little dip that beached the car and it takes a while to get a tarmac car going in that situation.”

“I’m building my confidence back up; at the start of the day I didn’t feel 100 per cent right, but by the end it’s a great feeling to finish the final stage fastest.”

“We’ve had awesome pace today and for that reason being fastest doesn’t come as a big surprise, it’s just a shame that I made a mistake, and I’m sorry for the whole team.”

“I really think we could have been fighting for a podium here. It’s very encouraging for us and shows how quick we can be on asphalt”.

Subaru World Rally Team managing director, Richard Taylor, agreed.

“Both Chris and Petter would have been comfortably in the top five, but they both paid heavily for small mistakes. After he went off on the second stage, Chris has done a great job this afternoon, running very strongly at the front of the field, and the fastest time on the last stage was well deserved.”

Tomorrow’s leg is the longest of the rally and includes the roads of the Baumholder military ranges. With four individual stages, each run twice, the competitors will cover 164.86 competitive kilometres of the rough and unforgiving route, the dirty asphalt making grip tricky to judge. With trees and huge concrete blocks lining the route, concentration and confidence need to be at their peak.

Results – End of Leg One – Rally Deutschland

Pos Driver Car Time
1. Duval Citroen 1h 14:10.9
2. Loeb Citroen + 1.3
3. Gronholm Ford + 17.4
4. Hirvonen Ford + 22.7
5. Gardemeister Citroen + 1:04.2
6. Kopecky Skoda + 1:26.6
7. Pons Subaru + 1:37.2
8. Latvala Ford + 1:40.7
9. P Solberg Subaru + 1:50.7
10. Stohl Citroen + 2:10.3

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