The 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge drew to a close in China this weekend, with visting driver Jarkko Miettinen claiming victory in his Group N Mitsubishi.
The rally, which was based for the first time at Shaowu, was defined by an intense tussle between Miettinen and countryman Juha Salo, also driving a Lancer.
After the opening superspecial stage on Thursday night, Miettinen - the reigning Romanian Champion - took the lead but his key rival, Salo, was not about to settle for second. Once the real action got underway on Friday using the red and dusty roads of the Shaowu region, Salo blasted into the lead, pulling out an advantage of more than half a minute over his compatriot at the end of the opening day.
Local driver Liu Caodong was third from the opening morning but he admitted that there was little he could do about the leading duo, who were in a class of their own. Miettinen was determined to overhaul Salo on the second day, but he had to maintain a careful pace in order not to pick up a puncture on the many sharp rocks that littered the route.
However, in a dramatic finish on Sunday afternoon, Salo was forced into retirement and Miettinen claimed a last-gasp victory.
Caodong eventually finished second, as the top local driver. He too was pushed hard, with Jun Xu passing Fan Fan to challenge Caodong on the final day.
In the IRC 2WD Cup, Marco Cavigioli headed to the China Rally needing to finish in the top four of the two-wheel drive runners in order to claim the inaugural IRC 2WD Cup. With Honda driver Alessandro Bettega leading the classification by three points, but choosing not to make the long trip to China, the final round of the IRC was a huge opportunity for Cavigioli.
After a slow start in the superspecial, the Italian eventually worked his way up to a potential title-winning third place in class by the end of the second day. On the final day, Cavigioli concentrated on maintaining his position which he held to the finish, claiming an emotional IRC 2WD Cup victory. Local Honda driver Jianrong Yan won the class in China ahead of the Volkswagen Polo of Xiong Xie.