Subaru team leader Petter Solberg has insisted that there is still a 'long way to go' in the battle for the drivers' title despite suffering his third retirement in three successive events today [Saturday] on the Rallye Deutschland.

The Norwegian who was fourth overall, went out 400 metres into SS12, Panzerplatte Lang 1 [40.30km], when he skidded off the road after a crest.

"Just after the start of the stage," he explained, "we went over a crest and the car went a little off the road and into a huge concrete block. We then rolled a number of times and went into more concrete.

"It was a big shock, but the main thing is that Phil [Mills - my co-driver] seems to be okay - we can always build another car!

"The team have been really supportive, but the car is not so good now. It is very difficult here, but then it has been the same for everyone."

Solberg now looks set to lose further ground in his bid to retain the drivers' title, as current championship leader, Sebastien Loeb looks set to notch up another win, and potentially stretch his advantage even further - going into this event the gap was 22 points.

"At the moment I am not feeling good and for sure it was no fun, but I'm not too stressed," he added. "There's a long way to go in the Championship and we'll be back again in Japan.

"We'll be putting on a good show on the gravel - so just watch us go, as we will be going for the win!"

Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile in the sister Impreza, ended the day ninth, having moved two places up the leaderboard.

"After a difficult morning, the afternoon was much better," he commented. "This morning I had little feeling on the wet, but this afternoon we made a better tyre choice and, as the stages were drier than those earlier, we set some good times. I'm also growing in confidence on the wet - but it's been a pretty steep learning curve as I hadn't driven the car on tarmac in the wet before this event. The car has been strong and I've learnt quite a lot today, which makes me happy. The plan for tomorrow is to keep the speed and try to catch those up in front."

Team boss David Lapworth was glad Solberg and co-driver, Mills were ok, however he was less than happy to be one of the day's victims.

"We expected an eventful day, but hoped not to feature in the drama in this way," he summed up. "To retire a car is disappointing, but in a situation like this, the most important thing is that both Petter and Phil weren't injured. The challenge is to now put it behind us and refocus on going from here to Japan and then winning as many rallies as possible to the end of the year.

"Mikko has stuck to his strategy of staying out of trouble and in such treacherous conditions it's encouraging that he is now climbing the leaderboard."



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