Giandomenico Basso came through to claim Abarth's first win in over twelve months on Saturday when he took the spoils on the Principe de Asturias Rally in Spain, the seventh round in the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

Basso and Peugeot Belgium's Nicolas Vouilloz had ended the long opening day, characterised by extremely variable weather, tied on time in the lead. During the second day though, Basso pulled ahead pushing extremely hard in the morning.

Vouilloz fought back on the final loop of stages however, reducing the gap to just 12.2 seconds heading into the final test. But once again the two rivals set exactly the same time, and Basso thus duly claimed gold - his first triumph since he took the spoils on the Madeira Rally in August last year.

"After the opening day of the rally when I finished with the same time as Nicolas overnight, I knew it was going to be a big fight today," said Basso. "Luckily we had a good day although it was quite stressful: I pushed hard in the morning and took a few more risks than I had done on Friday, when it was wetter.

"On the first stage of the final loop we had a spin, but luckily we did not lose too much time. Right up to the end it was a very intense fight with Nicolas, so we had to be really careful on the last couple of stages not to throw it all away. This win has been a long time coming and now I aim to do it again in Sanremo, which is one of my favourite rallies."

Second meanwhile was nonetheless good enough to allow Vouilloz to extend his championship lead, something that was particularly useful in the absence of IRC series frontrunner Luca Rossetti, who was contesting a clashing Italian Championship rally.

"In the morning I didn't have so much confidence, as we had a lot of understeer even though we were on the same tyres as Giandomenico. Then I felt slightly more confident in the afternoon but it was too late," Vouilloz reflected.

"We tried to push as hard as we could in order to make up the time, but Giandomenico drove very well today and the gap was too big. I'm happy with second place on what has been a really complicated rally with the changing weather: it's another podium finish and it puts us in a good position for the championship."

Freddy Loix, Vouilloz's team-mate, was third in Spain despite suffering power steering problems on the second stage today. The Belgian slid off the road but was still able to ensure his place on the final podium.

A masterful tyre choice on Friday evening when the previously wet conditions started to dry out had helped the Belgian to within 25 seconds of the leading duo, but his problem this morning denied Loix the chance to claim a second consecutive victory after winning the last round in the Czech Republic. Nonetheless, he moves up to second in the title race.

"We made up a lot of time last night by going for a slick tyre in drying conditions, but all that was undone today when we had a power steering problem," Loix reflected. "Right at the end of the second stage I turned the steering-wheel for a left-hand corner and nothing much happened: we just slid off the road.

"Afterwards we realised it was a power-steering problem, which we had to cope with on the next stage as well. From then on, it was a question of just trying to make the podium and secure as many points as possible, which luckily we were able to do."

Local man and 2002 Junior World Rally champion Dani Sola was set for fourth place on his home event, but went off the road on the second stage of the day in his privateer Abarth. This left the way clear for his countryman and reigning IRC champion Enrique Garcia Ojeda to claim the place in his Peugeot Spain 207 S2000. He finished ahead of the reigning Spanish Champion Miguel Fuster, in an Abarth entered by Fiat Spain.

Factory Abarth driver Anton Alen was sixth, his best overall career result on asphalt, despite not having any experience of driving the Grande Punto on wet tarmac before this weekend.

BFGoodrich Drivers Team entrant Sergio Vallejo was seventh, while local Mitsubishi man Alberto Hevia finished eighth, having run as high as fourth in the rain-soaked opening stages.

Peugeot Spain's Luis Monzon was also set for a points finish, but had to retire on the very last stage of the 873-kilometre event.

Despite the treacherous nature of the conditions, which left the drivers guessing about grip levels and tyre choices during the opening day, there were relatively few other retirements. Most of the people forced out were in the IRC 2WD Cup category. The first high-profile retirement was Alessandro Bettega in the Honda Civic Type R R3, who stopped after the opening stage with alternator failure. IRC 2WD Cup leader Marco Cavigioli retired on Friday afternoon with a broken radiator on his Fiat Punto Diesel.

This meant that local man Miguel Arias has become the latest IRC 2WD Cup winner, thanks to a faultless drive in his Peugeot 206 XS, assuming joint second place of the series behind Cavigioli. Arias led the category from SS4 onwards, eventually finishing more than a minute ahead of the similar car of Alberto Monarri. Climent Domingo was third in another Peugeot 206 XS.

The IRC now heads to Italy for the Sanremo Rally later this month, which runs from September 25-27.

Result - Principe de Asturias Rally

1. Basso/Dotta Abarth Grande Punto 2h34m39.0s
2. Vouilloz/Klinger Peugeot 207 S2000 +12.2s
3. Loix/Buysmans Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m54.5s
4. Ojeda/Costa Peugeot 207 S2000 +2m34.3s
5. Fuster/Medina Abarth Grande Punto +4m05.7s
6. Alen/Alanne Abarth Grande Punto +4m16.7s
7. Vallejo/Vallejo Peugeot 207 S2000 +5m12.1s
8. Hevia/Pin Mitsubishi Lancer (N) +6m40.6s
9. Burgo/Burgo Mitsubishi Lancer (N) +9m12.9s
10 Perez/Velasco Mitsubishi Lancer (N) +15m51.2s

Two-wheel drive winner: Miguel Arias (Peugeot 206 XS)

IRC standings (after seven rounds):


1. Vouilloz 52 points
2. Loix 35 points
3. Basso 32 points
= Rossetti 32 points
5. Alen 17 points
6. Kopecky 15 points
7. Hanninen 14 points
= Travaglia 14 points
9. Bouffier 6 points
= Camacho 6 points

1. Peugeot 117 points
2. Abarth 64 points
3. Mitsubishi 10 points
4. Volkswagen 5 points