After 161 competitive kilometres, the Principe de Asturias Rally came to a thrilling conclusion at the end of day one on Friday, with Peugeot Belgium driver Nicolas Vouilloz and Abarth driver Giandomenico Basso both tied for the lead on exactly the same time.

Theoretically speaking, Basso is the leader as the rules state that in the case of a tie the driver with the quickest time on the first stage leads, which was Basso.

However, both drivers have put in a superlative performance throughout the day, with Basso leading for the first three stages and Vouilloz taking over the lead from SS4.

"You never know what to expect on these events, but I certainly didn't expect to finish with exactly the same time as Nicolas!" Basso admitted. "The car has been very reliable, which is important, and we've certainly shown the pace to be challenging amongst the frontrunners.

"Coping with the mixed conditions has not been easy, particularly when it comes to tyre choice, but I think we've come out of the first day with every chance of doing well tomorrow. With where we are in the championship, we have no choice but just to go for it so Saturday should be another exciting day."

"It's been an incredible way to finish the rally today!" added Vouilloz. "As the day went on I got more and more confidence and then I was able to push reasonably hard.

"Unfortunately we went on the intermediate tyre for the last two stages, which was the wrong decision, and I know that there are definitely some other places where I am losing time, but I prefer not to take any risks as we are in a strong position to score some good championship points here."

In third place overnight meanwhile was Peugeot Belgium's Freddy Loix, who won the final two stages of the day thanks to an audacious tyre choice.

"The set-up of our car was not quite right in the morning, but we gradually refined it as the day went on," said Loix. "To be honest, I didn't have a good feeling earlier: on one of the stages I went straight on.

"In the end, the car was quite good - we definitely made the right tyre choice for the final two stages - but we still lost too much time at the start. Still, I am happy to be on the provisional podium and hopefully we can make up a bit more time tomorrow, as there is still a long way to go."

Friday's nine stages were dominated by uncertain weather conditions in the north-west of Spain, which meant that crews had to second-guess when and how heavily it would rain.

Both Basso and Vouilloz were generally happy with their tyre choices throughout the day, which showed in their evenly-matched pace, but Loix made an inspired decision for the final loop of stages by being the only person to choose slick tyres on a drying surface.

The pace of the leading trio showed in the fact that they were nearly a minute and a half ahead of the fourth-placed man, former Junior World Rally champion and local hero Dani Sola, at the end of the leg. Sola made his way steadily up the field throughout the day, having enjoyed an intense battle with his countryman - and reigning IRC champion Enrique Garcia Ojeda. Just behind them was another local expert, Abarth driver Miguel Fuster.

It was an extremely impressive day for Abarth's second factory driver, Anton Alen, as well. Despite the fact that this was the first time he had ever driven the Grande Punto S2000 on wet asphalt, he steered clear of major problems all day, having run consistently at the fringes of the top six.

Spaniard Luis Monzon rounded off the top points-scoring eight places after a solid performance. Another local man, Alberto Hevia, was also very competitive in his Mitsubishi, claiming fourth overall at the start of the event when the rain was at its worst.

Despite the treacherous nature of the conditions, most drivers managed to keep their cars on the road.

The first retirement of the day was the Honda Civic Type R R3 of Alessandro Bettega, which stopped with an alternator problem after the opening stage. Another casualty of the event, also in the IRC 2WD Cup category, was the class points' leader, Marco Cavigioli. The Italian slid off the road on SS7 without damaging his car, but the radiator broke as he was trying to regain the stage.

This left Peugeot 206 XS driver Miguel Arias leading the IRC 2WD Cup from the similar car of Alberto Monarri.

The action now continues on Saturday and takes in six more stages - split into two loops of three, to the south of Oviedo. It is another reasonably early start for the teams, who will leave parc ferme at 07:45.

The first stage starts at 09:00, and after three stages the cars return to midday service in La Morgal at 12:13. The first stage of the afternoon loop begins at 13:08, with the finish at 16:30 back in Oviedo after a rally total of 15 stages and 249.77 competitive kilometres [all times local].


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment