Peugeot Belgium enjoyed an extremely successful outing on the Rallye du Valais in Switzerland this weekend, the final European round of the IRC, with Freddy Loix claiming his third win of the year and Nicolas Vouilloz finishing second to claim the IRC drivers' title.

Although one round remains, in China from December 5-7, Vouilloz cannot now be caught in the drivers' standings. Loix's win also puts him into second overall in the drivers' title rankings.

Vouilloz moved into the lead on the first stage of day two, the 40-kilometre Les Cols stage. By winning this stage with an astonishing margin of 14 seconds thanks also to a clever tyre choice, the Frenchman took the rally lead and maintained it right up until the final afternoon. He lost a bit of time with a puncture on SS13, and then concentrated on ensuring a safe finish to guarantee his championship title during the final four stages.

"It's extremely satisying for us to finally win the IRC title after a very tough rally and a great fight all year," said Vouilloz. "We've done our best, and we've enjoyed a very consistent season while trying not to make any mistakes. This rally hasn't been an easy one at all, but we managed to set some quick times and more importantly bring the car home."

Loix, who set five fastest stage times over the course of the event, moved in front on SS15 and won the rally by 4.5 seconds after an entirely trouble-free run: "It's been a really tough rally in which we fought with Nicolas [Vouilloz] from the very start," he added.

"We've had no problems on the event, and it's been incredibly close from start to finish, even when we were going into the final stage. But in the end we both knew what we had to do. The season started off quite badly for me, but then it got better and better so it's great to take another win and also secure second in the IRC drivers' rankings."

The two Peugeot Belgium cars were in a league of their own this weekend, as the third-placed finisher, the recently-crowned European champion Luca Rossetti, was nearly a minute behind the leaders at the finish. Apart from an incorrect tyre choice on Thursday's three stages, the Italian encountered no problems throughout the three days of the rally.

"I was actually meant to be on my honeymoon this week, but then I got the call from Peugeot to come and compete on this event in order to try and help Nicolas in the championship," said Rossetti. "I hope we've done our job well and I'd like to congratulate him on winning the title. We've enjoyed a really good season, it's been a great season, and we hope to be back next year."

Behind him was Peugeot Poland driver Bryan Bouffier in fourth. Bouffier picked up a puncture on Saturday, but also enjoyed a clean drive to the finish.

Abarth's Giandomenico Basso, who needed a top result on the Rallye du Valais to stand any chance of taking the title fight to the final round, ended up fifth after fighting back from three punctures that cost him more than two minutes. He won the first stage of the rally, but dropped progressively down the field to seventh place. A big effort on the final leg saw him make up two places and claim four championship points, but they are not enough to keep his title hopes alive.

Despite his relative lack of asphalt experience, Abarth's Anton Alen recorded his best-ever sealed-surface finish to claim sixth overall. Perhaps encouraged by a flying visit to the Rallye du Valais from his friend and reigning Formula 1 World champion Kimi Raikkonen, Alen did not put a foot wrong during all three days of the Swiss event.

The final two points-scoring places were claimed by local man Gregoire Hotz, who set fastest time on SS14 and finished seventh, ahead of Peugeot Hungary's Janos Toth.

There was drama in the IRC 2WD Cup, which is now set to go down to the wire on the final round in China. Fiat Punto Diesel driver Marco Cavigioli, who is currently second in the standings, thought that his chances were over following a suspension breakage and consequent retirement during the first loop of stages on Thursday.

IRC 2WD Cup points' leader Alessandro Bettega, who took the class lead from the start, seemed set for a win that would have given him the championship. But the Italian retired on the afternoon of the second day with a broken driveshaft, meaning that the two-wheel drive title race is still open. Bettega still leads Cavigioli by 18 points to 15.

Local driver Joel Rappaz claimed the 2WD Cup honours in Switzerland, driving a Honda Civic.

Other retirements on the event included Abarth's Umberto Scandola, who led after the opening day but broke the suspension on his Grande Punto in SS5. Local hero Olivier Burri also stopped before SS6 with a mechanical problem.

Results - Rallye du Valais (Switzerland):

1. Loix/Buysmans Peugeot 207 S2000 2hours 37mins 33.5secs
2. Vouilloz/Klinger Peugeot 207 S2000 +4.5s
3. Rossetti/Chiarcossi Peugeot 207 S2000 +53.9s
4. Bouffier/Panseri Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m30.3s
5. Basso/Dotta Abarth Grande Punto S2000 +2m48.2s
6. Alen/Alanne Abarth Grande Punto S2000 +2m52.8s
7. Hotz/Ravasi Peugeot 207 S2000 +3m24.3s
8. Toth/Tagai Peugeot 207 S2000 +6m15.9s
9. Gonon/Arlettaz Peugeot 207 S2000 +9m51.4s
10. Radoux/Gregoire Mitsubishi Lancer +10m07.7s

Two-wheel drive winner: Joel Rappaz (Honda Civic Type R).

Standings (after round 9 of 10)*:


1. Vouilloz 58 points [champion subject to final confirmation]
2. Loix 48
3. Basso 46
4. Rossetti 44
5. Alen 21
6. Travaglia 19
7. Kopecky 15
8. Hanninen 14
9. Bouffier 11
10. Camacho 6


1. Peugeot 106 points [champions subject to final confirmation]
2. Abarth 74
3. Mitsubishi 10
4. Volkswagen 5

* Best seven scores count.



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