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IRC: Scandola leads in Switzerland.

Umberto Scandola has taken the early lead on the Rallye du Valais, the penultimate round in this year's Intercontinental Rally Challenge, which got underway on Thursday.

The young Italian, who was also the early leader of the Sanremo Rally last month, put in a faultless performance in Switzerland to claim a slim advantage of just 1.1 seconds at the first overnight halt.

By winning two of the three stages held so far, the Abarth man has demonstrated an impressive turn of speed despite his relative inexperience.

"It's been a very good start but I'm quite conscious that there is a long way to go," he stated. "On the three stages today we just made sure that we took no risks and kept a clean line.

"We had a little bit of understeer and the stages were surprisingly slippery, but on the whole we had no problems at all. I just need to make sure that I keep a comfortable pace and stay on the road. Last year we were third on this rally, which gives me a bit of extra confidence."

Peugeot Belgium's Freddy Loix meanwhile heads the chasing pack in second and he led early on: "I'm happy with the way that the rally has got underway for us. It's hard to tell how the whole event will go from just these three stages, but I'm pleased enough so far," Loix continued. "Tomorrow is when we have the real challenge though, and we could encounter some mist and fog as well - which would make things very difficult."

Loix's team-mate Nicolas Vouilloz lies third and if he wins this weekend he will clinch the IRC drivers' title, regardless of how his two rivals for the crown - Giandomenico Basso and Luca Rossetti - get on.

Basso, the winner of the last two IRC rallies in Spain and Sanremo, served notice of his intention by claiming the first stage that was run, Crans-Montana. He remained in contention during the second stage, but suffered a setback during the third and last stage of the leg, when he had a puncture to the front-right tyre.

Luckily for the Italian it was in the final kilometre of the stage and he dropped just 13 seconds to end up in sixth place overall overnight.



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Umberto Scandola. Abarth Grande Punto S2000. Rallye du Valais. Switzerland. October 2008 [Pic credit: IRC]
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