An icy start to Rallye Monte Carlo
The Subaru World Rally Team duo of Chris Atkinson and Petter Solberg had a dramatic start to the season–opening event in demanding and unpredictable conditions, and finished the first day of competition fourth and sixth respectively.

Using slightly revised Impreza WRC2007s, the team is confident of quickly developing a solid rhythm over the next three days that, in what have already proved to be challenging conditions, has always been the key to success on this unpredictable event.

In the first event in which all WRC teams are using the Pirelli control tyres, sub–zero temperatures in the mountains made grip challenging on the still unfamiliar rubber. Patches of ice littered the morning’s shakedown stage, on which Solberg was fifth fastest, and remained into the evening’s stages that rose high into the mountains.

In the treacherous conditions, Solberg and co–driver Phil Mills recorded the sixth fastest time in the opening stage after suffering a spin when they were caught out on ice at the top of the route. Atkinson and co–driver Stephane Prevot had a similar moment on the ice, but continued to complete the stage fourth quickest.

In the day’s second stage, Atkinson/Prevot were again fourth fastest, this time just ahead of Solberg/Mills in fifth. Split times early into the stage showed podium potential, Atkinson running ahead of Ford’s front–man Mikko Hirvonen before finishing the day close behind him in fourth overall. Solberg will start stage three tomorrow morning just one second behind Francois Duval.

With no snow for the second year running, there was one traditional Monte Carlo trait that could be relied upon. Its incredible diversity pitted the drivers against ice and driving in darkness, along a combination of wide and flowing main roads and narrow and technical mountain routes. A stern test for the entire field, several front–runners ran into difficulty on the notoriously treacherous roads.

Sub–zero temperatures and icy roads are predicted to be a feature for the remaining stages surrounding the Valence service park, meaning there is everything to fight for on tomorrow’s narrower and less forgiving routes.

Leaderboard after day 1
1. S Loeb/D Elena 23m38.4sec
2. D Sordo/M Marti +12.7sec
3. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +44.0sec
4. C Atkinson/S Prevot +58.6sec
5. F Duval/E Chevailler +1m13.5sec
6. P Solberg/P Mills +1m14.5sec
7. G Galli/G Bernacchini +1m26.1sec
8. T Gardemeister/T Tuominen +1m53.1sec
9. J Cuoq/P Janvier +2m09.2sec
10. F Romeyer/T Fournel +2m50.7sec

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