Giandomenico Basso has completed the opening day of Rally Principe de Asturias in Spain with a lead of 8.2s over local favourite Alberto Hevia
The Italian Abarth Grande Punto driver had been third until the seventh stage of the event but swept ahead when Hevia damaged his steering hitting a marker post on the 16.84-mile test.
Hevia, making his first start in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this season, will begin day two in second overall at the wheel of a Skoda Fabia Super 2000.
Nicolas Vouilloz, last year's IRC champion, was third until a puncture on the day's final stage meant he fell to fifth, one place ahead of his Kronos Racing team-mate Freddy Loix, who also suffered a deflation earlier in the proceedings.
There were differing fortunes for the main IRC title contenders. Jan Kopecky, who was three points behind Britain's Kris Meeke prior to the start, lies third in a factory Skoda Fabia. However, there was disaster for Meeke when his Peugeot 207 S2000 picked up a puncture on the 18.37-mile fourth stage and dropped more than three minutes, ending the day in sixth.
If the standings remain unchanged at the finish in Oviedo tomorrow afternoon, Kopecky will take a one-point lead over Meeke into the next round, Rallye Sanremo, on September 24-26.
A rejuvenated Guy Wilks was a strong fifth in the works Proton Satria Neo S2000 following an extremely encouraging showing by the Briton. Wilks had praised the improved handling of his MEM-run car, which underwent a thorough suspension overhaul in the build-up to the Spanish round, only for the machine to suffer a loss of drive at the start of the day's final run. He fell to 10th behind Franz Wittmann and Michal Solowow as a result.
Toni Gardemeister was ninth heading into the day's final stage but put his Opel off the road approximately two miles into the test. It is still unclear whether he will restart the final leg.
Miguel Fuster is set to restart on Saturday following his crash on stage two. His factory Abarth Grande Punto has left the permanent service park on the outskirts of Pola de Siero for the overnight parc ferme in Oviedo.
Saturday's final leg consists of six special stages and totals 56 miles. The first car is due to finish in Oviedo at 1607 local time.
Leading positions after leg one:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Giandomenico Basso Abarth 1h40m15.9s 2. Alberto Hevia Skoda + 8.2s 3. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 10.4s 4. Corrado Fontana Peugeot + 2m15.3s 5. Nicolas Vouilloz Peugeot + 2m27.3s 6. Freddy Loix Peugeot + 2m50.0s 7. Kris Meeke Peugeot + 3m02.9s 8. Michal Solowow Peugeot + 4m09.3s 9. Franz Wittmann Mitsubishi + 6m02.1s 10. Guy Wilks Proton + 6m10.2s
The fifth Intercontinental Rally Challenge was the best yet, and it was Skoda UK driver Andreas Mikkelsen who emerged as champion from a tense five-way shootout at the season finale. Matt Beer reviews the season