Giandomenico Basso has clinched his fifth career victory in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge following a scintillating battle with Andreas Mikkelsen on the 40th running of Rally San Marino.

Mikkelsen appeared to be in the ascendancy when he won Saturday's opening stage only for Basso to hit back by going fastest on the next run. His triumph ignited a thrilling fight that ebbed and flowed with astonishing frequency, and was only settled in Basso's favour on the very last all-gravel stage.

Such was the intensity of their scrap Basso and Mikkelsen were tied on time for first place on two occasions. At the finish in San Marino's historic quarter on Saturday evening, just 2.8s separated the pair with Basso claiming five stage wins to Mikkelsen's six.

The result means Basso, competing on a gravel rally for the first time in two years, becomes the fifth different winner in the IRC this season, while second place for defending IRC champion Mikkelsen increases his lead over Jan Kopecky in the race for the drivers' crown. Basso's success is also the first for M-Sport's Ford Fiesta Regional Rally Car in the IRC.

"I'm very happy," said Basso, whose victory was his first in the IRC since 2009 and earned him the prestigious Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy. "It was a fantastic race and battle with Andreas, who is a very good driver. My team has done a great job and the car and tyres have been perfect."

Basso's hopes of success appeared to have nosedived when he dropped 9.1s behind Mikkelsen after Saturday's first test following a cautious run in slightly damp conditions. But with his rival losing time cleaning the road of significantly more loose surface gravel on the next two stages, Basso was able to draw level heading to service in San Marino after Mikkelsen was slowed by powersteering failure.

Mikkelsen began the afternoon loop by edging Basso by 0.3s on stage nine only for Basso to draw level once again following stage 10. The decisive stage came on the next run when Mikkelsen's normally aspirated Skoda UK Motorsport Fabia Super 2000 was unable to match Basso's turbocharged machine on the uphill sections. Basso completed the stage leading by 4.9s and although Mikkelsen was fastest on the final two tests, it wasn't enough to prevent Basso from winning.

Umberto Scandola overcame power and handling issues to secure the final podium place in his Skoda Italia Fabia with Skoda Auto Deutschland's Sepp Wiegand a strong fourth on his Rally San Marino debut and only his third start on gravel. The inexperienced 21-year-old impressed from the outset by recording his first stage win in the IRC. Although he gradually slipped down the order due to tyre selection, handling issues and a costly spin on Friday afternoon, it was nevertheless an impressive showing by Wiegand who has now scored points on all six IRC events he has started this season.

Jarkko Nikara meanwhile upheld Subaru honour with his maiden IRC Production Cup victory by a margin of more than four minutes over the Hungarian Gerg?ly Szab?. Nikara, in a Yokohama-shod Tommi M?kinen Racing R4 STI, led from the outset and apart from a stall at a hairpin on Saturday morning, little troubled the Finn on his way to a strong fifth overall.

Behind, Marco Tempestini took seventh overall and third in the IRC Production Cup class but only after overcoming a fraught final day, when he was delayed by a puncture, a broken brake calliper and a brief car fire. However, Tempestini will be able to take heart from his battling performance ahead of his home round of the IRC in Romania later this month.

In the IRC 2WD Cup not even an enforced gearbox change following an oil leak on Friday's final stage could knock Harry Hunt off his stride as the Briton scored an impressive category win to move clear in the title race.

Hunt, the 2010 class champion, drove without error and preserved his car and tyres perfectly over the gravel stages, which became increasingly rough as the event drew to a close. Paolo Diana took second ahead of fellow Italian Renault Clio R3 driver Oscar Vettore. Catwees Honda Racing's young Estonian Martin Kangur started the event in the joint lead of the standings with Hunt only for his Civic Type R's powersteering to falter.

The 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge season now continues later this month with the Sibiu Rally Romania, running from 19-21 July.

Rally San Marino - Top ten IRC positions (after day two):

1. Giandomenico Basso /Mitia Dotta M-Sport Ford Fiesta RRC 2h35m56.6s
2. Andreas Mikkelsen /Ola Floene Skoda Fabia S2000 +2.8s
3. Umberto Scandola /Guido D'Amore Skoda Fabia S2000 +1m41.6s
4. Sepp Wiegand /Timo Gottschalk Skoda Fabia S2000 +2m06.2s
5. Jarkko Nikara /Jarkko Kalliolepo Subaru Impreza R4 STI +6m12.2s
6. Gerg?ly Szab? /Borbely Karoly Ralliart Lancer Evolution X +10m15.6s
7. Marco Tempestini /Dorin Pulpea Subaru Impreza R4 STI +13m22.6s
8. Gabriele Noberasco /Daniele Michi Ralliart Lancer Evolution IX +13m47.9s
9. Mikl?s Bujdos /Andr?s Benk? Ralliart Lancer Evolution IX +14m03.0s
10. Paolo Diana /Andrea Mini Renault Clio R3 +15m56.7s
IRC Production Cup: Jarkko Nikara/Jarkko Kalliolepo (Subaru Impreza R4 STI)IRC 2WD Cup: Harry Hunt/Robbie Durant (Citroen DS3 R3T)

IRC standings (after round 7 of 13) - Top ten*

1. Andreas Mikkelsen 107pts
2. Jan Kopeck? 83pts
3. Juho H?nninen 68pts
4. Sepp Wiegand 52pts
5. Giandomencio Basso 40 pts
6. Bryan Bouffier 27pts
= Umberto Scandola 27 pts
8. Dani Sordo 25pts
9. Craig Breen 18pts
= Freddy Loix 18pts

* - best eight rounds to count

IRC manufacturers' standings (after round 7 of 13)

1. ?KODA 282pts
2. Peugeot 154pts
3. M-Sport 84pts
4. Renault 64pts
5. Subaru 63pts
6. Honda 28pts



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