Petter Solberg has issued an apology to all of Subaru's fans, after the Subaru World Rally team endured a miserable start to its home event, the Rally Japan, on Friday.

Petter and Chris Atkinson both retired from the opening leg, leaving 'third' driver, Xavier Pons to fly the flag for the Japanese manufacturer. Pons ended the day in seventh place and on course for two drivers' points.

While Atkinson's off on SS6 though has ended his event for good, Petter will be able to rejoin the fold on Saturday under the SupeRally format and the Norwegian is determined to try and bounce back - although now that he is down in 64th place, more than 20 minutes off the top ten, he is going to be up against it.

Speaking back in the service area, 'Hollywood' noted that he just didn't have enough grip, which in part accounted for his off in SS5. However while he survived that excursion, he was unable to start SS6, when his Impreza WRC car got stuck in sixth gear.

"I can honestly say that I've tried my hardest today, I did everything I could and, of course, it's very frustrating that I haven't been able to get the result I wanted - especially here on Subaru's own rally - and I'm really sorry to all the Subaru supporters for that," said Petter.

"We struggled with the balance and the handling of the car pretty much from the first stage today, and this badly affected the amount of grip we had. Even though we made a good tyre choice I just wasn't able to push at all.

"After the first service things still didn't feel 100 per cent, and we were lucky not to stop after we went off on SS5. But in the end a gear selection problem meant we had no option other than to retire. We'll be out on the stages again tomorrow, and I sincerely hope I'll be able to give our fans something to cheer about."

Subaru World Rally Team managing director, Richard Taylor meanwhile was also unhappy with how the day worked out: "Overall it has been a disappointing day for the whole team. We feel particularly sorry for all the Subaru fans who are here to support Petter, Chris and Xevi that two of our cars are not on the leader board," he added.

"After a reasonable start, Petter and Chris both experienced problems with the balance of their cars which is very frustrating. Xevi finished the day in seventh place on his first visit to Japan, and Petter will take advantage of Superally rules to put on a show for his fans for the rest of the rally."

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