The Scorpion stings a second time!
Factory Abarth driver Giandomenico Basso has followed up his recent win in Spain with further success in the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, this time on the stages of the Rallye Sanremo. The result takes the Italian into second place in the Drivers' standings behind Nicolas Vouilloz (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) who was second this weekend. Fellow Peugeot/BFGoodrich driver Luca Rossetti finished third to secure the 2008 Italian title, while Peugeot has succeeded in keeping the IRC Manufacturers' crown thanks to the points scored during the year by BFGoodrich-equipped Peugeot 207 S2000s. The new hard compound BFGoodrich g-Force Profiler helped the tyre firm's partners to monopolise the top-five places at the end of what turned out to be a fiercely-fought Rallye Sanremo.
Giandomenico Basso and his co-driver Mitia Dotta never really looked like being beaten this weekend on the 50th edition of the Rallye Sanremo. They took control after Thursday evening's 59.99km SS4, a night-time run through the Monte Bignone region which took in such classic Sanremo names as Baiardo, Apricale, Perinaldo and San Romolo. Not only was the longest stage of the season an awesome challenge for the drivers but it was also a tough test for their tyres.
A time of 40m 57.3s with his Abarth Grande Punto S2000 running on the new hard compound BFGoodrich g-Force Profiler was enough to give Basso a very strong chance of winning. The outgoing Italian Champion went on to post three further fastest times the following morning on the slopes of Monte Ceppo to complete Leg 1 with a lead of almost one minute over his compatriot Luca Rossetti (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) after 172km of competitive action.
Peugeot-Belux's Freddy Loix and Nicolas Vouilloz followed in third and fourth places, but several top names had already fallen by the wayside by this time, including early leader Umberto Scandola (Abarth/BFGoodrich), Andrea Navarra (Abarth/BFGoodrich) and Didier Auriol (Abarth/BFGoodrich).
Giandomenico Basso profited from Saturday's leg to control from in front and go on to add his name to the illustrious list of Sanremo winners, but a battle raged in his wake for the two other podium places. Nicolas Vouilloz (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) recorded two best times to close to within a second of Rossetti with two stages remaining, and the Italian didn't resist, happy to settle for third spot which was enough to hand him the 2008 Italian title. Nicolas Vouilloz's runner-up finish has seen the Frenchman extend his lead in the provisional IRC Drivers' standings, but Freddy Loix (5th, Peugeot/BFGoodrich) was slowed by a differential problem towards the end of the event.
Despite Abarth's run of two wins in a row, Peugeot profited from the Italian event to make sure of its second consecutive IRC Manufacturers' title. Indeed, BFGoodrich-equipped Peugeot 207 S2000s have won six of the eight rounds contested so far and have claimed four one-two finishes.
The fifth and final outing for the BFGoodrich Drivers Team operation met with more resounding success in Italy where youngster Andrea Torlasco, who was chosen from 133 applicants, came close to finishing in the points with his Peugeot 207 S2000 after a virile scrap with factory Abarth driver Anton Alèn.
The final European round of the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge will take crews to Switzerland for the Rallye du Valais (October 23-25).
Quotes from Sanremo...
Giandomenico Basso (1st, Abarth/BFGoodrich):
"Following our win in Spain, it's extremely satisfying to have been successful again here in Sanremo. My car went like a dream and the new hard compound BFGoodrich tyre was particularly competitive and consistent over the longer stages. We pushed hard on Friday morning in a bid to build up a cushion and that meant we were able to control from in front today, especially on SS10 which was very soiled."
Nicola Gullino (Team Manager, Abarth/BFGoodrich):
"I would like to say congratulate Giandomenico, Mitia and everyone in the Abarth team. This second win in a row shows that the Abarth Grande Punto S2000 is competitive despite the quality of the competition we face in this year's IRC. These two victories were no fluke. On Augusts' Rali Vinho Madeira, Giandomenico Basso was in a position to challenge for victory and we unfortunately suffered a reliability problem in the Czech Republic. Once that was resolved, Giandomenico has been able to show the real potential of this car."
Nicolas Vouilloz (2nd, Peugeot/BFGoodrich):
"Second again! I pushed hard this morning to try to pass Freddy and Luca. It won't be easy in Switzerland where I will need to finish if I want to make sure of the title. Basso didn't contest the Rallye du Valais last year but he did the recce, and he is clearly very quick at the moment."
Luca Rossetti (3rd, Peugeot/BFGoodrich):
"I'm not too upset about not finishing second today! My priority was the Italian title and a podium finish was always my target. I'm obviously delighted to have won the championship, both for us and for Peugeot Italia, and for BFGoodrich, too, of course. It's been a tough fight all season but we have been consistent and competitive since the beginning of the year, with a score of nine podium finishes from nine starts, including two wins."
Jacques Morelli (IRC Programme Manager, BFGoodrich):
"It's been an excellent weekend for BFGoodrich and its partners who secured the top five places overall at the end of what has been a very exciting rally. The new hard compound g-Force Profiler was praised by all the drivers who used it for its competitiveness and durability, especially on the long 59.99km stage."
1, Basso/Dotta (Abarth Grande Punto S2000/BFGoodrich), 2h 56m 25.4s
2, Vouilloz/Klinger (Peugeot 207 S2000/BFGoodrich), +42.6s
3, Rossetti/Chiarcossi (Peugeot 207 S2000/BFGoodrich), +1m 9.3s
4, Travaglia/Granai (Abarth Grande Punto S2000/BFGoodrich), +2m 20.9s
5, Loix/Buysmans (Peugeot 207 S2000/BFGoodrich), +3m 4.8s
6, Perico/Carrara (Peugeot 207 S2000), +4m 35.4s
Next round: Rallye du Valais (October 23-25)