Having been sidelined from the FIA European Rally Championship in 2013, double European champion Giandomenico Basso made a triumphant return to the series after lining up a late late to contest his home event, the penultimate round of the season in a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 alongside co-driver Mitia Dotta.
The pair went into the final round of the Rallye Sanremo just seven seconds ahead of Bryan Bouffier, but a puncture for Bouffier set the Frenchman back by almost two minutes and saw him drop off the podium by the end of the event, providing a dramatic climax to the the race in the hills of the picturesque Liguria region in northern Italy on Saturday afternoon.
Bouffier's misfortune meant that Basso's winning margin was ultimately a comfortable one minute 43 seconds with Finland's Esapekka Lappi coming second in the Skoda with co-driver Janne Ferm ahead of Alessandro Perico and Fabrizo Carrara in the Peugeot, Bouffier coming in five seconds further back in fourth place. It was Basso's third Sanremo victory and the fourth for Peugeot's 207 S2000.
"I'm very, very happy," said Basso. "I came here with the intention of winning but at one point I thought it was not possible because we did not have a good feeling with the car and I suffered for this.
"However we made some changes in service to the dampers and that allowed the tyres to work better," he continued. "When we set the fastest time on stage eight we realised winning was possible.
"Now I will talk to the Munaretto team to see if it's possible to do Valais next month," he added. "I am also hoping this result will help me put together a more comprehensive programme in the ERC next year."
Meanwhile Andreas Aigner wrapped up the ERC Production Car Cup title in his Yokohama-shod Subaru Impreza R4 STI, with Zoltan Bessenyey clinching the ERC 2WD Championship for Eurosol-Honda Civic Type R after close rival and fellow Hungarian Kornel Lukacs was unable to score the points needed to keep the title fight alive.
"It's very, very good and I'm really, really happy," said Aigner, who was co-driven by Barbara Watzl. "I knew before the weekend this rally would be really hard but it was even harder. The car was absolutely perfect and the Yokohama tyres were working really well especially for the first time with the new pattern."
Bessenyey, who was attending a friend's birthday party in Hungary when he learned that he'd done enough to be champion, said: "It's been a very good season and I've liked it very much.