Nicolas Vouilloz wins the 2008 IRC Drivers' title with BFGoodrich
After Peugeot made sure of the Manufacturers' championship on the recent Rallye Sanremo, Frenchman Nicolas Vouilloz, 32, clinched the 2008 Drivers' crowntoday with his BFGoodrich-equipped Peugeot 207 S2000. Vouilloz and his co-driver Nicolas Klinger came second on this weekend's Rallye International du Valais behindtheir team-mate Freddy Loix (Peugeot/BFGoodrich). The BFGoodrich g-Force Profiler and BFGoodrich g-Force Gravel tyres have won every round of the 2008 IRC contested to date.
Multiple Downhill Mountain Bike Champion Nicolas Vouilloz, who is a longstanding rally fan, only took up the sport seriously in 2003, winning the French Volant Peugeot programme at first attempt. After a couple of campaigns at WRC level in a Peugeot 206, he returned to his national series to win the French title in 2006. Last year saw him finish second in the IRC thanks to a score of three wins, and this year he has added a further line to his list of accomplishments by wrapping up the IRC crown on his weekend'sRallye International du Valais.
Prior to the start of the penultimate round of the 2008 calendar, just two drivers still stood a chance of winning the title: Vouilloz (Peugeot/BFGoodrich), and Giandomenico Basso (Abarth/BFGoodrich), who was hunting for a third consecutive win to keep his championships hopes alive until early December'sChina Rally.
The Italian was effectively quick off the mark on Thursday afternoon to win the first stage of the event near the celebrated winter sports resort, Crans Montana. His Abarth/BFGoodrich team-mate Umberto Scandola took command after that and led at the end of the short opening leg. It was a promising start for the Abarth squad, even though Basso fell back a little as a result of a slow puncture on the Sion super-special.
The rest of the event turned out to be much less successful for BFGoodrich partner BFGoodrich, however. Scandola ripped off a wheel on Friday morning, while Basso fell back to seventh overall - more than two minutes behind the leader - after picking up two more punctures in succession.
Meanwhile, the Peugeot-Belux team saw its two drivers take control, with Nicolas Vouilloz easing ahead after the long 40km stage and his Belgian team-mate Freddy Loix claiming three stages on Day 2 to end Friday's action in second spot, 11.7 seconds behind Vouilloz .
In their wake, the recently crowned European Champion Luca Rossetti (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) and two-time Polish Champion Bryan Bouffier (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) were respectively third and fourth, and Vouilloz knew that he could count on the rearguard support of three Peugeot/BFGoodrich drivers in his bid to ward off the Abarth challenge.
Although he could easily have settled for second place, Nicolas Vouilloz kept the pressure on Loix right until the end of the final stage, and less than half a second split the two team- mates at the start of the final asphalt stage of the season, the 12.3km Nendaz test. Wisdom prevailed, though, and Freddy Loix went on to claim his third win of the year in Switzerland after his previous successes in Belgium and the Czech Republic, to make sure of second place in the 2008 IRC Drivers' championship .
Although he will go down as the most successful driver of the season in terms of outright wins, the former WRC driver probably lacked consistency, which was indeed Nicolas Vouilloz'smain strength this year. The Frenchman was both quick and regularly at the sharp end of the results, finishing eight times on the podium. And he never retired. His worst finish from the nine rounds contested was fifth. His sixth runner-up finish of the season today hands him the IRC title which he failed to win by just five points in 2007.
After wrapping up the 2008 European Championship last weekend in Antibes, this year's Italian Champion Luca Rossetti concluded his outstanding campaign with a fifth IRC podium finish in his Peugeot/BFGoodrich. He completed the distance ahead of France'sBryan Bouffier (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) who succeeded in being classified inside the 2008 IRC's top - ten, despite only taking part in two rounds!
Giandomenico Basso (Abarth/BFGoodrich) finally finished fifth overall after posting the fastest time on the last stage. His team-mate Anton Al