Nicolas Vouilloz was officially crowned the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion this week, at a glittery ceremony held at the Paris headquarters of French television company TF1
, the mother company of Eurosport
Applauded by some of the leading stars in international rallying, Vouilloz, who won his title with Peugeot Belgium, paid tribute to the series and his rivals.
"It's been a fantastically competitive season and it's certainly not been easy to win this title," said the Frenchman. "I'd like to thank everybody who I competed against, especially my team-mate Freddy Loix and also Giandomenico Basso, for making my life difficult!
"The Kronos Racing team, which runs our car for Peugeot Belgium, has also done a fantastic job, and I'd like also to thank Eurosport
for producing a spectacular season.
"Most of all, I'd like to thank my co-driver Nicolas Klinger, who has been nothing less than perfect this year."
The top three manufacturers, drivers and co-drivers in the inaugural IRC 2WD Cup meanwhile were also presented with their trophies by the IRC's motorsport development manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas, after a thrilling battle for the title that went down to the wire in China.
"We certainly didn't win this title the easy way," added inaugural IRC 2WD Cup winner Marco Cavigioli, who was co-driven to success by Enrico Cantoni. "But we are absolutely delighted to have finally done it!
"It's been a brilliant and above all a highly-competitive series, and we aim to be back for the Monte Carlo Rally next year."
In addition to the top three drivers, co-drivers and teams, all the participating manufacturers and event organisers received a trophy to mark their contribution to the IRC.
The IRC's three tyre partners - BFGoodrich, Pirelli and Yokohama - were also honoured for their role in the IRC's second full season.
"The Intercontinental Rally Challenge has taken a number of major steps forward throughout 2008," summed-up Laurent-Eric Le Lay, the president of the Eurosport Group and Eurosport Events. "Firstly in terms of television production - which attracted 16 million viewers on Eurosport alone - and also in terms of the number of events and competitors we have welcomed. Not only that, but we have also expanded the IRC community through measures such as the IRC 2WD Cup and Supporter Event scheme."