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IRC: 55 to start in Sanremo.

A total of 55 IRC entrants will take the start of next weekend's Sanremo Rally, round eight of the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, with 19 of them driving Super 2000 cars.

As well as being the penultimate European round of the IRC this year, Sanremo also counts for the Italian Rally Championship, which will see a strong contingent of cars from Abarth in particular.

The Italian team will line-up with no fewer than five factory cars on their home event, for Giandomenico Basso, Renato Travaglia, Andrea Navarra, Anton Alen and Umberto Scandola.

Also driving a privateer Abarth, for the renowned Grifone team, will be the 1994 World Rally champion Didier Auriol, co-driven as always by Denis Giraudet.

The event will be a prime opportunity for Abarth to make up ground in the manufacturers' championship, where they currently trail Peugeot. However, the French team is also strongly represented.

IRC series leader Nicolas Vouilloz will start the rally first on the road, which can actually be an advantage on asphalt as it means that he will run on cleaner roads during the first passage through the stages at least.

As was the case on the Sanremo Rally last year, Mitsubishi is sure to be a strong force on the event thanks to Paolo Andreucci's official Ralliart Italia entry. Andreucci, running on Pirelli tyres, has proved to be masterful in the tricky conditions of Sanremo and he will once more be one to watch.

Pirelli's other lead drivers on the event include Luca Cantamessa and former Sanremo winner Alessandro Perico.

A fierce battle also announces itself in the two-wheel drive category, where local driver Marco Cavigioli aims to extend his five-point lead of the series. Amongst his challengers will be the Honda Civic Type R R3 of Alessandro Bettega.

"We've worked extremely hard on the set-up and improved the suspension of the car a lot recently," he noted. "So now our work is really beginning to pay off. I am optimistic that we will see the results in Sanremo."

The Sanremo Rally gets underway with four special stages on Thursday night (25 September), which includes the longest stage of the entire IRC season. The rally finishes on Saturday afternoon after 12 stages in total and 258 competitive kilometres.


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