Kris Meeke goes into the penultimate round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge with a 1 point lead over Rally Principe de Asturias winner Jan Kopecky.
Kopecky brought the Britons lead down to a single point in Spain after a dramatic second leg with Meeke lucky to finish second. A penalty dropped second placed finisher Nicolas Vouilloz behind Meeke in to third.
The 201.81km 51st Rallye Sanremo marks the last asphalt rally of 2009 with the last round in Scotland being gravel based.
Kicking off at Piazza Columbo at 18:00 local time the rally will head through the first three stages before the competitors take on the ‘super stage’ that is Cuori, which see’s the three opening stages joined in to one massive test of endurance.
Paul Nagle, Kris Meeke’s co-driver said “That will be a long and brutal stage especially at night”
The first of the 109 entrants will take to the Cuori stage at 22:43.
With no fewer that 24 Super 2000 machines entered in to this rally the highlights are the two works Skodas of Jan Kopecky and team-mate Juho Hanninen, the Peugoet UK entry of Kris Meeke, the Benelux Peugeots of Nicolas Voillox and Freddy Loix and the works Fiat Abarth Grande Puntos of Francois Duval, Luca Rossetti and Umberto Scandola.
Former WRC star Francois Duvall returns to the IRC after his last outing on his native Belgium Ypres rally in June and will be hoping to progress further this time after crashing out on the first corner.
Previous to Ypres he impress with an Abarth Grande Punto in the 2008 Rally Portugal, holding a strong second place before retiring due to a mechanical problem.
“I’m looking forward to Sanremo, but it will be very difficult as there are going to be a lot of local specialists there” said Duval. “I will do my best but there’s no question of doing what happened in Ypres again.”
One man who will be missing from the entry list is fourth placed Giandomenico Basso who has taken the decision to attend the Greece ELPA with an Abarth/BFGoodrich entry.
Jacques Morelli, Manager of BFGoodrich’s IRC programme talked about the upcoming rally. “The 108-strong entry features no fewer that 24 S2000 cars, In addition to the usual IRC front-runners, there is also Belgium’s Francois Duval, who has been recruited for the occasion by Abarth/BFGoodrich, as well as the Italian Championship regulars who are always competitive on home soil. The competition is just as fierce between tyre manufacturers, too, and not simply in the S2000 Category.”
From the tyre manufacturer point of view he went on to say “The stages are narrow and twisty, but there are also some awesomely fast sections with steep drop-offs to the side! The surface tends to be abrasive, but it can also become very slippery if the conditions are damp, or under the tree canopies. The weather is frequently unsettled and tyre choices – which have to be made in the service area by the harbour-side in Sanremo – can be difficult, and potentially decisive.”
Drivers Championship 1 Kris Meeke (GB) 50 2 Jan Kepecky (CZ) 49 3 Freddy Loix (B) 32 4 Giandomenico Bassa (I) 29 5 Nicolas Vouilloz (F) 25 Manufacturer Standings 1 Peugeot 109 2 Skoda 72 3 Raliart 42 4 Abarth 34 5 Proton 5
Aside from the main championship race the two wheel drive classification is still open for contention with Denis Millet in his Peugeot 207 R3t leading with 41 points and Manuel Villa in his Fiat Punto S1600 just 5 points behind.