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.

"We started the year not knowing the races, the competition, the team or the car but step-by-step we have improved," he continued. "It's thanks to everyone who helped us get these results. We had a very reliable car, great team and sponsors and we were able to challenge on all the races because of this."

While Basso celebrated his second successive victory in Sanremo, there was frustration for multiple Italian title-winner Paolo Andreucci who dropped out of a comfortable lead when he made a rare error four kilometres into Saturday's third stage.

"I noticed before the stage there was low pressure in one tyre so we changed it but the tyre was worn," Andreucci explained. "Then in a slippery section about four kilometres in I lost it. It was quite a straightforward place and maybe I did not pay enough attention. I hit something in the rear so we changed the left-rear tyre and that was it. Of course you make mistakes but I don't remember making a mistake as stupid as this."

Despite taking less than two minutes to change their punctured tyre, Bouffier and co-driver Xavier Panseri slipped to fourth in the overall standings behind Alessandro Perico and Fabrizio Carrara. Perico would have been second but for a charging effort by Esapekka Lappi on the final stage.

Lappi said he "pushed like hell" in his factory Skoda Motorsport Fabia S2000 to clinch the runner-up spot by winning the stage alongside navigator and fellow Finn Janne Ferm. Cheered on by Skoda team-mate and European champion Jan Kopecki, who was in Italy to watch the serious competition ahead, Lappi had started the final leg in sixth overall following a conservative drive on his Sanremo debut and his sixth start on asphalt.

Stefano Albertini finished fifth with Paolo Andreucci recovering to sixth having slipped outside of the top 10 at one point. Federico Gasperetti dominated the ERC Production Car Cup division in his Renault Megane R.S. N4, finishing seventh overall in the process.

Alex Vittalini won the ERC 2WD Championship category after overnight leader Simone Campedelli crashed out on Saturday's opener. Vittalini, in a Citroen DS3 R3T, had actually slipped to second in class starting the final stage but moved back ahead when Danilo Ameglio retired.

Michele Tassone finished second with Gabriele Cogni third in a Peugeot 208 R2, while young Russian driver Vasily Gryazin fought back from a puncture to complete the top 10.

Craig Breen restarted on Saturday following his exit on the first Ronde night stage and clocked several rapid stage times in his Peugeot Rally Academy entry, after his team mate Jeremi Ancian retired with engine failure on Friday's third test.

Robert Consani returned to the action after stopping following stage one with a brake glitch on his Team Renault Sport Technologies Megane R.S. N4. Subaru driver Toshi Arai finished third in the ERC Production Cup but Alain Pyrame went off the road on the final stage while running fourth.
Top 10 Positions (after 11 stages, 231.78 kilometres)

1. Giandomenico Basso (ITA)/Mitia Dotta (ITA) Peugeot 207 Super 2000 2hr 37mins 37.3secs
2. Esapekka Lappi (FIN)/Janne Ferm (FIN) Skoda Fabia Super 2000 +1mins 43.0s
3. Alessandro Perico (ITA)/Fabrizo Carrara (FIN) Peugeot 207 S2000 +1mins 47.1s
4. Bryan Bouffier (FRA)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +1mins 52.9s
5. Stefano Albertini (ITA)/Simone Scattolin (ITA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +2mins 10.4s
6. Paolo Andreucci (ITA)/Anna Andreussi (ITA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +10mins 01.0s
7. Federico Gasperetti (ITA)/Federico Ferrari (ITA) Renault Megane R.S. N4 +10mins 35.2s
8. Alex Vittalini (ITA)/Sara Tavecchio (ITA) Citroen DS3 R3T +11mins 40.2s
9. Michele Tassone (ITA)/Marco Rosso (ITA) Renault Clio R3 +11mins 48.8s
10. Vasily Gryazin (RUS)/Dmitry Chumak (RUS) Ford Fiesta S2000 +12mins 26.3s



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