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Chris Atkinson’s brave charge in Rallye Deutschland ended prematurely when the Australian’s Subaru hit a wall early on the final day, forcing him to retire from the event.

The third leg started like the second leg had ended, with the Queenslander again mixing it with the pace of Sebastien Loeb, Marcus Gronholm and Francois Duval, setting the second fastest time on the day’s opening stage.

Having moved to ninth place from his overnight tenth, suddenly a top eight result and more championship points was a possibility, a remarkable consideration after losing more than seven minutes on the second stage of the rally back on Friday.

However, on the very next stage Atkinson made a mistake under brakes and hit a wall with the right hand front corner of his Impreza WRC2007, ending the charge that had taken him from 90th place at the end of SS2 to ninth at the end of SS15.

Loeb finished Rallye Deutschland victorious, with Duval the runner-up, 20.3 seconds behind. Mikko Hirvonen was third, one minute 19.1 seconds off the pace, while series leader Marcus Gronholm was fourth, a further 17.4 seconds back.

Atkinson’s team mate, Petter Solberg finished the rally in sixth place. The third Subaru of Xavier Pons experienced mechanical issues on the opening stage this morning and withdrew from the event.

While disappointed not to get to the end after an epic journey which saw him set three fastest stages times, Atkinson was philosophical, taking plenty of positives from his performance on asphalt, the surface where he has the least experience.

“Yesterday was a great day and it meant a lot to me and the team to win those stages, so we went out today looking for more wins,” Atkinson said.

“The team are working so hard, so it is great to be able to deliver this performance, but unfortunately today I just pushed a little too hard.”

“When you’re in ninth place as we were, it is maybe better to take these risks and show what Subaru can do rather than settle into a steady pace. Overall we have shown the car to be quick on asphalt this weekend, so it is very encouraging for the remaining sealed surface events this year.”

The next round of the World Rally Championship is back on dirt at Rally New Zealand, which will start on August 30, ending on September 2.

Results – Rallye Deutschland

Pos  Driver        Car           Time
1. Loeb Citroen 3h27:27.5
2. Duval Citroen + 20.3
3. Hirvonen Ford + 1:19.1
4. Gronholm Ford + 1:36.5
5. Kopecky Skoda + 3:07.1
6. P Solberg Subaru + 3:14.7
7. Gardemeister Citroen + 3:37.5
8. Latvala Ford + 5:29.3
9. Wilson Ford + 11:04.2
10. Wilks Ford + 19:47.8

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