Giandomenico Basso's third victory on the Rally Madeira is within his grasp, halfway through the final day's action on round seven of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
The Italian has claimed two stage wins today in his works Abarth Grande Punto, bringing his event total to 10, and is holding rapid Portuguese challenger Bruno Magalhaes at bay in his Peugeot 207.
The first two stages were claimed by Basso's team-mate Luca Rossetti, who is standing in while regular driver Anton Alen joins the World Rally Championship action in Finland alongside Kimi Raikkonen. Unfortunately for Rossetti his impressive performance came to an abrupt halt on SS16, the third of the day, when he crashed out.
Rossetti's demise means that Peugeot fills eight of the top ten positions at the midday service, bookended by Basso in front and 10th-place Marco Cavigioli in his privately-entered Grande Punto.
Defending Portuguese champion Alex Camacho lies third ahead of defending IRC champion Nicolas Vouilloz and the battle for fifth place between IRC title protagonists Kris Meeke and Freddy Loix, while Guy Wilks holds 11th place in the Proton Satria Neo.
Wilks was encouraged by the development of the Proton and a positive pre-event test coming in to Madeira, the all-new car's third international outing, but admitted from the outset that his fifth-placed finish in Russia would be hard to repeat this weekend due to the huge numbers of highly-developed Peugeots and Abarths in the field.
If the positions remain as they are Basso will have fired himself into contention for the championship with four rounds remaining, while Vouilloz's hopes of retaining the IRC crown appear to be ebbing away. Meeke's fifth place would put another vital point between himself and Loix, with second-place man Jan Kopecky sitting out the Madeiran asphalt event while the works Skoda team focuses on an all-out assault for its home event, the Barum Rally Zlin, at the end of this month.