New Impreza’s debut brings podium after day one in Greece
On the 55th running of the notoriously punishing Acropolis Rally, the all-new Subaru Impreza WRC2008 made its competitive debut today to great acclaim. On this real event of attrition, Petter Solberg and Phil Mills grabbed third place overall on the opening day, whilst team-mates Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot successfully completed their first competitive outing, and also Atkinson’s first ever rally aboard a brand new World Rally Car, lying within striking distance of the front-runners.

The Subaru World Rally Team is not one to shy away from a challenge, demonstrated this weekend by the decision to launch their newest World Rally Car on the most unforgiving event of the season, and ahead of schedule. Introduced to the World Rally Championship on Wednesday evening to worldwide media and VIPs, both Imprezas successfully completed the first day of their debut event on what is largely regarded as the most punishing rally on the calendar, and under the watchful eyes of the world’s press.

“It was a brave move to bring the new car to an event like this, but to succeed in motorsport you must be bold” said David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team Principal. “Petter and Chris did a great job and demonstrated a steady and consistent pace today on an event which claimed other front-runners. You have to balance the risk of pushing flat out whilst treating this event as an endurance test, and today the mix worked well for Petter especially. This car is a definite step forward for us. By competing at this stage of the season we put ourselves in the best possible position to exploit the huge potential in the car and achieve our objective of winning again by the end of the year.”

The first day of the rally was incredibly dry and dusty, and saw temperatures soar to just shy of 40 degrees Celsius – classic Acropolis conditions. The third stage of the day in particular was very rough, but both Imprezas proved their out-of-the-box worth to complete the day in points-scoring positions, despite Atkinson and Prévot suffering damaged front suspension during the second rock-strewn pass of the day’s roughest test.

After a strong run in the morning that saw them fighting for fourth position, Solberg and Mills were feeling confident, and a last-stage tussle afforded their clean run a step on the podium at the day’s end. Running sixth in the morning with an equally problem-free drive, Atkinson and Prévot battled to eighth position overall after losing time in the penultimate stage, first as a result of the damaged suspension, and again when stopping to mitigate the situation. Their ingenuity paid off and the duo completed the final stage without further problem.

Echoing Richards, Petter Solberg commented: “The car has so much potential! I am happy with the way today has gone, and it is so important for the team to be third on a very special day for us. We have had no problems all day which is very good. The car is good to drive, and the team has worked so hard to get it here so it is great to be third. But there is much more to come. We are coming, step by step!”

“Ok, we have finished the first day which is very important” reflected Chris Atkinson. “It’s good to be in the new car, and we know we still have some work to do. We damaged a control arm in the afternoon on the roughest stage of the day which lost us some time. We knew bringing it in early would be tough, and we need to find a bit more, but that’s what we came here to learn, and we are learning.”

Day 1 Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena 1h21m34.8s
2. D Sordo/M Marti +15.7s
3. P Solberg/P Mills +59.1s
4. H Solberg/C Menkerud +1m06.0s
5. U Aava/K Sikk +1m15.5s
6. J-M Latvala/M Attila +1m18.9s
7. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +1m36.4s
8. C Atkinson/S Prevot +1m36.8s
9. P-G Andersson/J Andersson +2m23.8s
10. F Villagra/J Maria Volta +2m29.3s

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