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Monte Carlo, Sardinia and three drivers, all in the same day for SWRT
The Subaru Impreza WRC2007s of Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot and Petter Solberg/Phil Mills have again showed strong pace to consolidate yesterday’s positions of fourth and sixth at the end of the second day of Rallye Monte Carlo.

Meanwhile, latest signing Markko Martin today
completed his first week of testing aboard the team’s new car, the hotly anticipated WRC2008. This year SWRT is dedicated to running a full WRC campaign and a comprehensive test programme concurrently; a demanding approach to new car development in which resources will be shared and commitment doubled.

The 47 crews restarting Rallye Monte Carlo from the Valence service park were faced with another challenging day of narrow and unforgiving asphalt tests, and while an early temperature of six degrees Celsius meant there was no ice, the asphalt was incredibly slippery. In contrast to yesterday’s wide and flowing roads, the first speed test of the day was incredibly narrow, often not much more than one car width, whilst the following two were notoriously technical and twisty as they wound their way into the mountains.

“With a solid and reliable performance today we are on target for both cars in the top five” said David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team Principal. Although tomorrow is the longest day of the event, Monte Carlo has a sting in the tail with five stages on Sunday without a full service. I’m excited that testing progress with the WRC2008 is progressing well, and look forward to talking to Markko when he joins us on Rallye Monte Carlo on Sunday”.

The second day of competition on Rallye Monte Carlo brought a close and hard-fought battle between Atkinson and Ford’s Francois Duval. The pair swapped stage times throughout the day in a thrilling battle in treacherously slippery conditions. Atkinson finished the day 14 seconds ahead in fourth position, having increased his lead over Duval from just 2.9 seconds after the morning’s stage. The Australian finished with his best stage times of the rally, finishing third fastest on the final two stages of the day.

“I’m happy with today – we started ok this morning, and then made some setup changes during the midday service which worked better” said Chris Atkinson. “In the afternoon loop we pushed hard to finish with two third fastest stage times to keep fourth overall after today. There’s a long way to go, but we’re in a good position and going well. Tomorrow’s stages are very fast. I went well on them last year although now there are slight changes to the routes, but I am looking forward to continuing the fight tomorrow.”

Solberg completed the day chasing the Belgian asphalt specialist Duval for fifth position. Securing two top-four stage finishes, the effervescent Norwegian closed the gap to a fraction over 10 seconds before dropping back during the afternoon. In the slippery conditions, Solberg demonstrated his grit and determination to remain in sixth place, firmly within a points-scoring position.

“Today has not been so bad for us and we are still in sixth position overall” commented Petter Solberg at the day’s close. “We pushed hard today in tricky conditions that were very demanding. The top four stage times are good, but we had some difficulties this afternoon so we will make some changes before day three. There is more to come so I hope we can find more time tomorrow.”

Four hundred kilometres from the Monte Carlo service park, Markko climbed aboard the Impreza WRC2008 for the first time to put it through its paces in a week long gravel test in Sardinia that was successfully concluded today. Putting the car through almost 1,000 kilometres of testing over five days, the aim was endurance testing of the car and components and familiarisation for both the engineers and Markko. It was conducted under a variety of conditions in changeable weather, and used a variety of roads from wide sweeping routes to tight and technical sections.

“We’ve been testing the WRC2008 all week and have done a lot of kilometres since Monday” commented Markko Martin today. “The testing was very promising, and though it is obviously too early to comment on performance, myself and the team have learned a lot about the car to help us make all the right decisions at this early stage. It’s a great feeling to be back with the team again – it’s been a while since I was last here in 2001 and there are some old faces and some new faces. The team are all speaking the same language which is important in understanding the direction of the car which is crucial. It’s a very exciting car for the team and for Subaru, and it’s a privilege to be involved with it. It’s always a good feeling to drive a new car, and I’m looking forward to the next test where we will start to focus on performance.”

Tomorrow’s route
Saturday heralds the final day of competition from the rally’s Valence service park before teams travel to Monaco for Sunday’s five stages. Day three is the longest and one of the toughest challenges for drivers yet. Starting in the dark, there is a mix of very quick and some of the most technical stages. The weather is expected to be similar to that of today – dry and between six and 11 degrees Celsius with overnight ice in the morning

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