Italian ace Giandomenico Basso has made a heroic return to the FIA European Rally Championship by winning his home event, Rallye Sanremo, which reached a dramatic climax in the hills of the picturesque Liguria region in northern Italy this afternoon.
Basso, a double European champion, has been absent from the ERC this season but secured a late deal to contest the penultimate round in a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 alongside co-driver Mitia Dotta. Using Michelin’s new hard-compound PILOT Sport R30 tyre for the first time, Basso started the final stage leading Bryan Bouffier by seven seconds. But when Bouffier was forced to change a puncture, Basso took victory in Sanremo for the third time 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. 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. I am also hoping this result will help me put together a more comprehensive programme in the ERC next year.”
Basso wasn’t the only winner this weekend: Andreas Aigner wrapped up the ERC Production Car Cup title* in his Yokohama-shod Subaru Impreza R4 STI with Zoltán Bessenyey clinching the ERC 2WD Championship* for Eurosol-Honda Civic Type R after close rival and fellow Hungarian Kornél Lukács 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. 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 ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia S2000 to clinch the runner-up spot by winning the stage alongside navigator and fellow Finn Janne Ferm. Cheered on by ŠKODA team-mate and European champion* Jan Kopecký, 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 Mégane 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 Citroën 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.
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. Team-mate Jérémi 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 Mégane 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 2h37m37.3s
2 Esapekka Lappi (FIN)/Janne Ferm (FIN) ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 +1m43.0s
3 Alessandro Perico (ITA)/Fabrizo Carrara (FIN) Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m47.1s
4 Bryan Bouffier (FRA)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m52.9s
5 Stefano Albertini (ITA)/Simone Scattolin (ITA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +2m10.4s
6 Paolo Andreucci (ITA)/Anna Andreussi (ITA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +10m01.0s
7 Federico Gasperetti (ITA)/Federico Ferrari (ITA) Renault Mégane R.S. N4 +10m35.2s
8 Alex Vittalini (ITA)/Sara Tavecchio (ITA) Citroën DS3 R3T +11m40.2s
9 Michele Tassone (ITA)/Marco Rosso (ITA) Renault Clio R3 +11m48.8s
10 Vasily Gryazin (RUS)/Dmitry Chumak (RUS) Ford Fiesta S2000 +12m26.3s
ERC Production Car Cup:
Federico Gasperetti (ITA)/Federico Ferrari (ITA) Renault Mégane R.S. N4
ERC 2WD Championship:
Alex Vittalini (ITA)/Sara Tavecchio (ITA) Citroën DS3 R3T
Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy:
Bryan Bouffier (FRA)
SS1-SS2: Bryan Bouffier
SS3-SS6: Paolo Andreucci
SS7-SS10: Giandomenico Basso
Day one (Friday 11 October, 106.76 kilometres):
SS1: Coldirodi (14.34kms): Overall: Bouffier/PC: Gasperetti/2WD: Campedelli
SS2: Apricale (17.75kms): Scandola/Gasperetti/Campedelli
SS3: Vignai (20.40kms): Andreucci/Aigner/Campedelli
SS4: Ronde (33.87kms): Bouffier/Gasperetti/Campedelli
SS4b: Ronde bis (20.40kms): Andreucci/Gasperetti/Campedelli
Day two (Saturday 12 October, 125.02 kilometres):
SS5: Colle Langan 1 (19.93kms): Bouffier/Gasperetti/Nucita
SS6: Passo Teglia 1 (21.85kms): Bouffier/Gasperetti/Ameglio
SS7: Colle d’Oggia 1 (20.73kms): Bouffier/Gasperetti/Nucita
SS8: Colle Langan 2 (19.93kms): Basso/Gasperetti/Nucita
SS9: Passo Teglia 2 (21.85kms): Bouffier/Gasperetti/Ameglio
SS10: Colle d’Oggia 2 (20.73kms): Lappi/Gasperetti/Nucita
ERC rally wins in 2013: Jan Kopecký 6; Giandomenico Basso 1; Bryan Bouffier 1; Kajetan Kajetanowicz 1; Jari Ketomaa 1; Freddy Loix 1.
ERC stage wins in 2013: Jan Kopecký 49; Bryan Bouffier 25; Robert Kubica 18; Craig Breen 17; Jari Ketomaa 8; Freddy Loix 6; Kajetan Kajetanowicz 5; Roman Kresta 4; Raimund Baumschlager 3; Andreas Aigner 2; Paolo Andreucci 2; François Delecour 2; Martin Kangur 2; Bernardo Sousa 2; Pieter Tsjoen 2; Pavel Valoušek 2; Giandomenico Basso 1; Jan Černý 1; Beppo Harrach 1; Esapekka Lappi 1; Luis Monzón 1; Ricardo Moura 1; Jaroslav Orsák 1; Hayden Paddon 1; Václav Pech 1; Umberto Scandola 1; Juraj Šebalj 1.
Rallye International du Valais (Switzerland), 7-9 November
*Subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA