Nicolas Vouilloz (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) a step closer to the title

After finish second in last year's IRC Drivers' title chase, Nicolas Vouilloz seems to have a strong chance of clinching the 2008 championship when the calendar's penultimate fixture- the Rallye International du Valais - finishes on Saturday afternoon. At the end of the second leg, the Frenchman tops the provisional leaderboard, while his title rival Giandomenico Basso (Abarth/BFGoodrich), who needed to win the Swiss event to keep his chances alive, has fallen back to seventh overall.

The second day of the 2008 Rallye International du Valais kicked off with a long, 40km stage through the Swiss Alps near Martigny, with several high mountains passes to cross. Nicolas Vouilloz, who started the day in third position, hit the ground running to claim the fastest time and take the lead with his Peugeot 207 S2000 running on BFGoodrich's soft compound g -Force Profiler A03. His rival Giandomenico Basso met with contrasting fortunes, however, since he dropped 15 or so seconds as a result of a slow puncture.

The situation went from bad to worse, in fact, for the works Abarth/BFGoodrich team as the day progressed. The following test saw the event's early leader Umberto Scandola rip a wheel off his Abarth Grande Punto S2000, which led to SS5 being neutralised. Then, on SS6, his team-mate Giandomenico Basso picked up another puncture - on a gravel portion of road - and lost a further two minutes. The Italian consequently figures in seventh place overall this evening, more than two and a half minutes adrift of the leader. His chances of seeing the fight for the title go down to the wire in China look very slim indeed, therefore, especially since the top four places tonight are held by Peugeot drivers.

Despite his score of two wins this season, Belgium's Freddy was no longer in the running for the Drivers' crown prior to the visit to Switzerland, and his objective this weekend was to provide support for his team-mate Vouilloz. However, since Basso no longer seems to be a real threat to the Frenchman, there is no longer really anything to hold Loix back, and he proceeded to post three fastest times to complete Friday's action just 11.7 seconds behind his team -mate.

Luca Rossetti and Bryan Bouffier (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) are respectively third and fourth this evening, ahead of factory Abarth driver Anton Al