Giandomenico Basso surged from fourth to first with a stunning performance on the epic 44-kilometre night stage that concluded day one of Rally Sanremo.
Ronde was a combination of all three stages that had been used for today's opening loops, and crews had to cope with both darkness and a damp stage following earlier rain. The home drivers completely blitzed the Intercontinental Rally Challenge regulars on the stage, with Abarth duo Basso and Luca Rossetti first and second fastest, and pre-Ronde leader Paolo Andreucci third in his Peugeot.
Freddy Loix was the best of the regular IRC competitors in fourth on the stage, but he was 20 seconds slower than Rossetti and Andreucci – and 36sec down on Basso, who was a clear 15sec quicker than anyone else on the stage. That meant he vaulted into the rally lead, 5.2sec ahead of Andreucci and 17.5sec in front of new third-place man Rossetti.
Kris Meeke is still the best non-Italian in fourth, despite spinning his Peugeot near the end of Ronde.
"I lost 20-25 seconds with a spin near to the finish," he said. "It's not over but to win these rallies you can't afford stupid mistakes like that."
He still outpaced Skoda's Juho Hanninen on the stage, with the Finn frustrated with a tire choice more appropriate for wetter conditions. He holds fifth, 2.2sec behind Meeke, with Bryan Bouffier (Peugeot) and fellow Skoda driver Loix close behind.
Title contender Jan Kopecky (Skoda) was yet another usual frontrunner to struggle through Ronde and lost more time in eighth, while Skoda UK's Guy Wilks rued his soft setup as he dropped to 11th overall.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Giandomenico Basso Abarth 1h15m50.6s
2. Paolo Andreucci Peugeot + 5.2s
3. Luca Rossetti Abarth + 17.5s
4. Kris Meeke Peugeot + 46.9s
5. Juho Hanninen Skoda + 49.1s
6. Bryan Bouffier Peugeot + 56.4s
7. Freddy Loix Skoda + 58.2s
8. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 1m28.2s
9. Gianfranco Cunico Peugeot + 1m33.3s
10. Alessandro Perico Peugeot + 1m33.8s