Subaru rally driver, Chris Atkinson, has driven his Impreza WRC2008 to sixth place in the Rallye of France after a trouble-free final day.

Atkinson and co-driver, Stephane Prevot, had been fighting for fourth place after the first day, but punctured a tyre mid-way through day two, and then eased their pace to secure a finish and maintain fourth place in the World Rally Championship.

Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb did as he pleased at the front of the field, winning his fifth consecutive rally (and his tenth of the season) ahead of the Fords of Francois Duval, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala. Atkinson’s Subaru team-mate, Petter Solberg, suffered two punctures on the final day, but still took fifth place.

“We had a good start on Day 1 and we were fighting with Jari-Matti and Petter, but then we had a puncture which lost us time,” the Gold Coast driver said.

“Once we had the puncture and I was down I just took it quite safe and easy. In the end I could have pushed for the last day and a half and I might have beaten Petter after his two punctures, but you can never know that and we might have got a puncture anyway, so that’s life.

“It’s been a good weekend though, as we were on Petter’s pace before the puncture yesterday. I’ve driven a good rally and it’s good to get some points. I think Petter and I are pretty close on tarmac at the moment. He’s got an extra point or two out of these last two rallies, but we’ve had a little bit of bad luck.

“I think we’re both pushing quite hard and that’s good for my driving,” he added.

Punctures were the order of the day. Solberg climbed to fourth overall after the first stage of the day when Hirvonen suffered a flat tyre on the abrasive asphalt. However, the same fate befell the Norwegian on the following stage when he too lost one minute with a front right puncture, sliding into fifth once again.

On the afternoon’s repeat pass of the same stage, Solberg again suffered a puncture, indicating just how cracked and unforgiving the island’s roads are.

The World Rally Championship now heads to the land of the rising sun for Subaru’s home event, Rally Japan, from October 30 to November 2.

The rally, the 14th and penultimate round of the championship, will be based at Sapporo – the fifth largest city in Japan - on the northern island of Hokkaido

The SWRT drivers will face a whopping 29 special stages covering almost 345 competitive kilometres, all of which will be new for the drivers.
Final placings - Rallye of France

1. Loeb / Elena, Citroen C4 WRC, 3h42m58.0s
2. Hirvonen / Lehtinen, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +3m24.7s
(diff. to 1st)
3. Duval / Pivato, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +3m31.6s
4. Latvala / Anttila, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +3m37.5s 
5. Solberg / Mills, Subaru Impreza WRC2008, +5m35.4s
6. Atkinson / Prévot, Subaru Impreza WRC2008, +6m10.4s
7. Aava / Sikk, Citroen C4 WRC, +7m25.2s
8. Wilson / Martin, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +9m02.2s
9. Ostberg / Unnerud, Subaru Impreza WRC, +9m13.3s
10. Clark / Nagle, Ford Focus RSWRC 07, +13m38.3s
Driver's Championship points
1  Loeb / Elena, 106
2  Hirvonen / Lehtinen, 92
3  Sordo / Marti, 59
4  Atkinson / Prévot, 45
5  Latvala / Anttila, 42
6  P. Solberg / Mills, 40
=7  H. Solberg / Menkerud, 22
=7  Duval / Pivato, 22
Manufacturers’ Championship points

1  Citroen Total WRT, 169
2  BP Ford WRT, 146
3  Subaru World Rally Team, 87
4  Stobart VK M-Sport WRT, 62
5  Munchi’s Ford WRT, 22
6  Suzuki WRT, 21
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