26 Jan 08
Subaru's Chris Atkinson holds the final podium position after a good day in his Impreza. Atkinson was the fastest driver through SS13, beating rally leader Loeb by almost ten seconds, and becoming the only non Citroen driver to take a stage win so far this season. The Australian recorded the first asphalt stage win of his career on the same 25km section last year and had an unusual explanation for his speed: "I think maybe I'm a bit stupid, I guess," he said. "It's quite fast and tricky and I don't like to use the brakes so much - so it worked okay."
Francois Duval is fourth in his Stobart team Ford Focus. The Belgian kept the pressure on Atkinson during the morning and closed to within 10-seconds of rival by the midpoint service. In the afternoon, however, Duval couldn't match Atkinson's pace and he will start the final day 20 seconds adrift. In service Duval wasn't too optimistic about his chances of taking fourth: "I think the gap ahead to Atkinson is too much for me to catch as the conditions on the stages tomorrow are likely to be tricky - especially if you are pushing. We are getting more used to the car every stage but I still think we need to be very careful," said Duval.
Petter Solberg had a trouble-free day in his Impreza and rounds out the top five places. He was unable to match the pace of his team-mate, but two cars in the top five could be a valuable result for the Japanese manufacturer. Despite approaching this rally with last year's Impreza, and modest expectations of success, Subaru is on course for one of its best results for a long time. If Atkinson remains third and Solberg fifth, the team could leave Monte Carlo as joint leaders of the manufacturers' championship with Citroen.
After the evening service in Valence, a free transit section took competitors on the 400km journey to Monaco in readiness for Sunday's final day of action. The first stage - which includes the legendary Col du Turini section - starts at 0950hrs.