Petter Solberg's hopes of getting a good finish on the Rallye Deutschland took a major knock in the penultimate stage on Friday when he hit a rock and damaged the steering on his Subaru Impreza WRC2007.

Petter came into the tenth round in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship eager to do well after his car problems in Finland, which eventually forced the team to withdraw him on day 2.

Initially things were looking quite good for the Norwegian too and he finished the opening loop this morning in fifth place overall, less than 10 seconds behind Marcus Gronholm, who was fourth.

"We started off cautious, just building up feeling and confidence, but things are good and have gone well," he noted in service A. "We had a softer tyre choice than the other guys, but it was better than I expected."

The repeat loop though did not go as planned and in the Grafschaft Veldenz test he damaged his car and after that he lost considerable time - around 30 seconds in SS5 and a similar amount in SS6. Consequently he plummeted down the order and he now lies ninth, 10 seconds behind Stobart Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala, who is currently on course to take the final drivers' point.

"Our pace this morning was very good and the car was handling well. It is very good on asphalt; a completely different car [to what it was like in Finland]. Unfortunately I came into a hairpin during SS5 and hit a rock with the inside wheel which damaged the steering," he explained.

"There was nothing we could do to fix it until we returned to service and it was very difficult to drive, so that meant we lost time in the last two stages which are the longest of the day."

Subaru managing director, Richard Taylor meanwhile described the day as one of 'mixed fortunes' for the Banbury-based operation.

Indeed not only did Petter lose time while on course for good points, but Chris Atkinson also dropped lots of time, when he went off in SS2 and beached his car. Although he could continue the incident cost him over 7 minutes. As such Xavier Pons leads the way for Subaru at the end of day 1, in seventh place overall.

"We're really pleased with the pace of all three cars on the asphalt, but the positions we hold at the end of the day don't truly reflect the performance and potential we've shown," Taylor summed-up.

"Both Chris and Petter would have been comfortably in the top five, but they both paid heavily for small mistakes. After he went off on the second stage, Chris has done a great job this afternoon, running very strongly at the front of the field, and the fastest time on the last stage was well deserved.

"Petter's day started extremely well, but the steering damage caused by the rock on SS4 dropped him to the lower end of the top-ten. Apart from a couple of spins and a faulty handbrake, Xevi has had a good day.

"Overall we can be pleased with the pace that we've shown. It's encouraging for the rest of the weekend."