Basso still on top in Madeira

Giandomenico Basso has moved closer to his first win of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge season after leading throughout a marathon day two of the Rally Madeira, which saw 12 special stages were contested

Basso still on top in Madeira

The Italian claimed a total of eight stage wins through the course of the day, but was hounded throughout by a pair of Portuguese-driven Peugeots in the hands of Bruno Magalhaes (who claimed three stage victories), and Alex Camacho.

Basso had to take a cautious approach to the final four stages of the day after losing reverse gear from his Punto. Keen to avoid spinning into a position he possibly could not escape from, his conservative performance was opposed by the increasing confidence of Magalhaes, who is on BF Goodrich rubber for the first time this weekend and took a few stages to get a feel for the limits on his car.

An uneventful rally thus far for defending IRC champion Nicolas Voullioz sees him holding a secure fourth place for Peugeot, neither challenging the top three nor being unduly pressed by the trio behind him.

This battle for fifth to seventh place has nevertheless provided the lion's share of the action to date, with Luca Rossetti hanging on to fifth for Abarth with some excellent stage times despite breaking his front suspension on the opening loop. Right behind him, however, the battle between the Peugeots of Kris Meeke and Freddy Loix over sixth place is raging entertainingly.

Having won last night's superspecial, Meeke slithered back down the order in the morning to seventh place and then mounted a forward charge. Loix, however, sitting just six points behind the Peugeot UK driver, clearly had other ideas and the pair traded times throughout most of the day.

At the penultimate service Meeke required some attention to his 207 when a door needed replacing - having stuffed it in so solidly that it took 20 minutes to shift.

With a new door fitted he then went out and won SS12, the penultimate stage of the day, and closed in on Rossetti once again. A mere eight seconds cover the three cars at the overnight halt.

"I said at the start that third place would feel like a win here and we're still some way off that," Meeke said. "Giandomenico's really on it this weekend, and as a result of a few problems today we're more than a minute behind him. For the sake of my championship I'd be glad to have those four guys in front of me rather than Freddy, but there's still a long way to go."

For Basso, the season could come alive with victory in Madeira, as not only would it hoist him up the order to contend for the IRC crown, but also put him into a clear lead in the FIA European Rally Championship, which also counts the classic Madeira event on its calendar.

Meanwhile it's an all-Renault affair at the front of the two-wheel-drive contenders as Filipe Freitas leads Joao Silva in their Clio R3s. For the IRC 2WD Cup contenders it is Manuel Villa who leads in his Punto S1600 from the 1600 turbo Peugeot 207 of Denis Millet, after Jose Camacho dropped out on SS12 with mechanical problems.

A total of 45 cars from the 69 starters will go out for the final day's action tomorrow, which will see eight competitive stages.

Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Giandomenico Basso Abarth 1h55m28.3s 2. Bruno Magalhaes Peugeot + 16.0s 3. Alexandre Camacho Peugeot + 29.4s 4. Nicolas Vouilloz Peugeot + 49.7s 5. Luca Rossetti Abarth + 1m03.6s 6. Kris Meeke Peugeot + 1m07.7s 7. Freddy Loix Peugeot + 1m11.8s 8. Miguel Nunes Peugeot + 3m13.5s 9. Corrado Fontana Peugeot + 4m01.4s 10. Michal Solowow Peugeot + 5m05.1s 
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