Abarth driver Giandomenico Basso won the Sanremo Rally for the first time in his career, having led almost throughout the historic Italian event.

The third and final day of the rally consisted of four stages, split into two loops of two with a service on the seafront in Sanremo in between. Weather conditions remained dry, although the day got off to a cloudy start, and, having recently claimed victory on the previous IRC round, in Spain, Basso underlined the speed and reliability of his Grande Punto with another flawless run on home soil, taking the lead on the 59.66km Ronde stage on Thursday night and not relinquishing it.

The victory moved the Italian up to second place in the overall IRC standings with two rounds left to run.

"I'm very happy to win this event for the first time in my career," Basso commented, "It's been an extremely tough three days, even tougher than I thought, but luckily we've got a great car, a great team, and some fantastic support from all the people out on the stages.

"We had to push very hard to get this result, but it's certainly worth all the effort. All I can do now is to continue to try my best and hope that we can keep the drivers' championship open right to the end. We've won the last two rounds, and I'm thinking that a trip to China at the end of the year could be fun..."

Second place on the event went Peugeot Belgium's Nicolas Vouilloz, which was enough to extend the Frenchman's lead in the drivers' standings to 18 points, although dropped scores still have to be taken into account.

Vouilloz had to work hard for second, however, and only claimed the spot after a dramatic fightback on the final day. Having started in fourth position, behind team-mate Freddy Loix, he managed to overhaul the Belgian on the first stage, before then getting past Peugeot Italy's Luca Rossetti on the penultimate test to move into second at the finish. His result also wrapped up the 2008 manufacturers' title for Peugeot.

"The quality of the opposition here seems to get stronger every year, so we're very pleased to get second place," Vouilloz admitted, "To go one better would mean winning the event, but that's an extremely difficult proposition.

"I'm very happy with our performance here, but now we have to start taking dropped scores into account as only the best seven from ten count. In terms of the drivers' championship then, we've only made a limited amount of progress, which should certainly make life interesting over the rest of the season!"

Rossetti, the winner in Sanremo last year, was more than happy with third place, as this enabled him to claim his first Italian Championship title. The Peugeot driver experienced a few set-up problems that caused understeer on the opening two days, but just concentrated on bringing his car home safely during the final day.

"I'm very pleased with third place as this gives us the Italian Championship title for the first time, which is something that we have worked very hard towards all year," he said, "During the rally, we had to keep this in mind all the time, so we were not exactly able to drive as we wanted because we couldn't afford any risks. But, from now on, we are free to concentrate on pushing as hard as we can, so I'm looking forward very much to the rest of the season."

Loix dropped to fifth place after his car developed a transmission problem on the final loop of stages, leaving the Belgian with only two-wheel drive and easy prey for former European champion Renato Travaglia, who dropped time with some incorrect tyre choices earlier in the event. With a big gap to former Sanremo winner Alessandro Perico in sixth, however, Travaglia used the final part of the rally to test some different set-ups but still caught and passed Loix.

Italian Championship frontrunner Luca Cantamessa was seventh in a privateer Peugeot, while Abarth factory driver Anton Alen claimed the final drivers' point in eighth place. Mitsubishi driver Paolo Andreucci was unlucky to miss out on a good finish after losing a lot of time with a puncture on the final day.

The IRC 2WD Cup was won by Alessandro Bettega, the son of the legendary Attilio Bettega, in a Honda Civic Type R R3, ahead of the similar car of Luca Ghegin. Bettega now leads the IRC 2WD Cup after overhauling former points leader Marco Cavigioli, who finished outside of the top eight in his Fiat Grande Punto Diesel and did not score. Yagiz Avci, in a similar car, also took advantage of the Italian's woes to close up to him in the overall standings.

Several incidents and accidents characterised the 50th anniversary edition of the Sanremo, underlining the difficulty of the all-asphalt route. The longest stage of the event - and the entire IRC campaign - Ronde, was cancelled on Thursday night after Sandro Sottile crashed his Yokohama-equipped Peugeot 207 S2000 and blocked the stage.

On the same stage, Abarth's rally leader Umberto Scandola ripped off a wheel and retired, while team-mate Andrea Navarra stopped with a broken gearbox. The same problem affected the privateer Grande Punto of 1994 World Rally champion Didier Auriol, while day two saw the Volkswagen Polo S2000 of Bernd Casier crash out of a points-scoring eighth place.

The next event takes the crews to the Rallye International du Valais in Switzerland over 23-25 October, which is expected to provide another asphalt challenge on the mountain roads around Martigny, which have been known to be affected by ice at this time of year.

"Again, we've seen a fantastic battle involving world class drivers, on one of rallying's classic events," claimed IRC development manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas, "Now that dropped scores have to be taken into account, we have ended up with an extremely interesting championship situation, which promises plenty of drama and excitement over the rest of the year."

Results - Sanremo Rally:

1. Basso/Dotta Abarth Grande Punto S2000 2h 56m 25.4s
2. Vouilloz/Klinger Peugeot 207 S2000 +42.6s
3. Rossetti/Chiarcossi Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m09.3s
4. Travaglia/Granai Abarth Grande Punto S2000 +2m20.9s
5. Loix/Buysmans Peugeot 207 S2000 +3m04.8s
6. Perico/Carrara Peugeot 207 S2000 +4m35.4s
7. Cantamessa/Capolongo Peugeot 207 S2000 +5m44.2s
8. Alen/Alanne Abarth Grande Punto S2000 +6m01.1s
9. Torlasco/Brega Peugeot 207 S2000 +6m11.1s
10. Andreucci/Andreussi Mitsubishi Lancer Evo +7m22.7s

2WD Cup winner: Alessandro Bettega (Honda Civic Type R R3)

Standings (after round 8 of 10)

Drivers

1. Vouilloz 60
2. Basso 42
3. Loix 39
4. Rossetti 38
5. Travaglia 19
6. Alen 18
7. Kopecky 15
8. Hanninen 14
9. Bouffier 6
= Camacho 6
11. Casier 5
= Valousek 5
= Ojeda 5

Manufacturers

1. Peugeot 131 champions subject to final confirmation
2. Abarth 79
3. Mitsubishi 10
4. Volkswagen 5

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