Giandomenico Basso extended his lead on the Sanremo Rally today [Friday], the eighth round in this year's Intercontinental Rally Challenge, following a flawless performance.

Despite saying that he had little confidence over the mountainous stages, the Italian managed to stretch his cushion to just under a minute by the end of the day's four stages.

Basso used some new compound tyres from BFGoodrich to help him capitalise upon his advantage over Peugeot Italy's Luca Rossetti, who maintained the second place he captured last night. Basso's Abarth's Grande Punto enjoyed perfect reliability throughout the day, although he had a precautionary gearbox and differential change at service.

"It's been another good day today. In actual fact I didn't feel very confident with the stages this morning so I decided to push hard to try and make up for that," said Basso. "I was surprised that we won both of them, which was obviously very good.

"In the afternoon it was a little bit easier, as we obvious already knew the roads a bit. I'm very happy with the gap we've got so it will be simply a question of trying to control it tomorrow. There's still a long way to go though so I'm not drawing any conclusions. This rally is extremely tough and we've seen already that anything can happen."

Rossetti, last year's Sanremo winner, experienced some set-up problems throughout the two stages this morning, which led him to make some changes at service. During the afternoon Rossetti reported that the Peugeot felt better, although he still complained of occasional understeer.

The Italian battled against Freddy Loix throughout the day, with the pair ending up separated by just 12 seconds heading into the last leg tomorrow.

Loix's team-mate Nicolas Vouilloz meanwhile is also heavily involved in the battle for the final podium place, just five seconds behind the Belgian.

However an extra dimension to the battle for third is the fact that Rossetti also has the Italian title to think about. If the rally ended as it is now he would be crowned Italian champion, which is the main objective for Peugeot Italy.

"I've not been very happy with the set-up of my car today: we experienced a lot of understeer and it seemed hard to find a solution to this problem," Rossetti reflected. "We tried some different things at service and in the afternoon it was better but still not perfect.

"I'm more than happy with second place though as this would allow me to become Italian rally champion. If Giandomenico wins the rally I will be pleased for him: he's had a lot of bad luck in the past."

"Looking at Giandomenico's pace I have to say that it's almost incredible: there's no way we can follow that so we are not even going to try to," Loix added. "Instead, I'm just going to concentrate on driving my own rally and scoring some useful points."

Just as was the case yesterday, when the longest stage of the rally was stopped, accidents characterised the action today as well: a sign of just how challenging this 50th Sanremo Rally is proving for all the competitors.

The first to fall by the wayside was Volkswagen Polo S2000 driver Bernd Casier, who had been running in a points-scoring eighth. Casier got caught out by a tricky corner on SS6, San Romolo 1, and spun into a guardrail, blocking the stage.

When the stage was re-run as SS8 another accident, this time for one of the two-wheel drive cars, stopped the stage again. As a result of these stoppages, the majority of the competitors were given notional times for SS6 and SS8.

The IRC 2WD Cup is currently being led by Alesssandro Bettega, who is the son of the legendary Attilio Bettega, in a Honda Civic Type R R3. In fact it is a Honda one-two, with the similar car of Luca Ghegin claiming second in the category. Marco Cavigioli is third in his Fiat Grande Punto Diesel, but this result would allow him to extend his lead of the IRC 2WD Cup over Turkish driver Yagiz Avci.

The weather conditions in Sanremo were dry and warm throughout the day, although the changeable nature of the local climate was underlined by a brief rain shower that fell on the service park after the leg had ended. The drivers now have the afternoon off, before the action resumes with SS9 at 09.11 tomorrow.

There are four stages in total on Saturday, once more split into two loops of two stages with service in between at Sanremo. The cars then return to Sanremo for the finish ceremony.



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