Subaru boss David Richards has paid tribute to the 'tireless efforts' of the Banbury-based outfit's test team following the successful debut event with the all-new Impreza WRC2008 in Greece.

Subaru had originally been due to switch to the new car following the summer break, however, the decision was taken after Sardinia to move that date forward and while the move was risky, considering the Acropolis is the roughest round in the World Rally Championship, in the end it paid off, with Petter Solberg securing the runners-up spot.

While Chris Atkinson didn't finish in the sister car [see separate story], he re-started under the SupeRally on Sunday and before he went out again with suspension damage, the Aussie gave the Impreza WRC2008 its very first stage win in SS14. That was yet another encouraging pointer for Subaru as it looks to catapult itself back to the sport's forefront and challenge Citroen and Ford for victories - and ultimately championship titles.

"Many thought our decision to come here was risky but I'd like to pay tribute to the tireless efforts of our test team whose efforts have been totally vindicated," said Richards.

"Today was a day of consolidation for Petter and Phil [Mills - his co-driver]. You can take nothing for granted on a rally like Acropolis until the very end, and Petter's task was to bring the car home unscathed on a very challenging day that saw his brother drop from the lead trio.

"Chris continued his development and testing of the car today and tried a few new things that proved successful, giving him a dominant stage win this morning.

"We are now onto the next stage of development for the WRC2008. We've completed the first event, and the many lessons we have learned here will stand us in good stead for the second half of the season."

Subaru meanwhile also had an extra boost post-event when the team scooped the 'Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally' award, which recognises parties demonstrating the 'same values that the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, stands for; respect, innovation, integrity and teamwork'.

"It is a great honour to accept this award as recognition of the successful debut of Subaru's new Impreza World Rally Car, the WRC2008," said Ikuo Mori, president and chief executive officer, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.

"We have all worked very hard to bring it here to Greece, and especially after today we are very confident that it will mark a new era for the team and Subaru, taking us back to our winning ways.

"It is important for our fans worldwide that the new five-door Impreza is now in the WRC and I would like to express my gratitude to Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority for recognising all our hard work to achieve what we have this weekend."

Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority officials praised the new Subaru's instant impact in the WRC on what was a rollercoaster of a weekend in Greece.

"This rally is known as a car wrecker, so to launch the new Impreza at the Acropolis was potentially very risky," added Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, ADTA. "Not only does the new car look fantastic, but it's proven it has the necessary attributes to compete at the top level.

"Sport is about competition and rally needs as many teams battling for podiums and victories as possible. Its great news for everyone in rally that the new Subaru car has had such a distinguished debut - my full congratulations go to the team for their hard work and commitment."