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Fiat has won the European Rally Championship with three rounds to spare with the Fiat Punto dominating the 2006 title chase in its debut season and Giandomenico Basso clinching the title with an unassailable lead after a decisive in the Rally Vinho da Maderia.
 

Basso and his Punto set the fastest time on 11 of the 19 stages and was never headed from the second state to the chequred flag.
 
The victory in Madeira means that Fiat has now clinched its fourth FIA European Rally Championship crown, following in the footsteps of Raffaele Pinto (Fiat 124 Sport Spider) in 1972; Maurizio Verini (Fiat Abarth 124 Rally) in 1975; and Adartico Vudafieri (Fiat 131 Abarth) in 1981.
 
The 2006 season has been a strong one for both Fiat and Basso, with four wins out of the six events that have taken place so far this year, and the perfect response to last year’s second place in the same championship.

Two more events remain, the Barum Rally Zlin in the Czech Republic (25-27 August) and the Sanremo Rally in Italy (14-16 September).
 
The Fiat Punto is also competing in two other championships: the new International Rally Challenge, which is also led by Basso with one more event to run, and the Italian Rally Championship which is currently led by Paolo Andreucci in another Punto.
 
The success of the Fiat Punto Rally, which made its debut on Rally del Ciocco, in the Italian Rally Championship in March this year, carries significance for rallysport as a whole, not just Fiat. It is the first of a new generation of rally cars designed to cut costs, but with out reducing the excitement and audience appeal of rallying.
 
That it has proven such a success straight out of the box is a testament to both the Punto and the new rules.
 
The work of designing the Punto Rally began in January 2005 and the vehicle has been built to comply with the new FIA Super 2000 international regulations that cover four-wheel drive vehicles with 2000cc normally aspirated engines.
 
Based on the standard production model, Fiat Punto Rally produces a maximum power output of 270bhp at 8250rpm. It uses a sequential six-speed gearbox driving a four-wheel drive system, with front, central and rear mechanical differentials.
 
According to the rules, the transmission, casing components and internal gearbox parts must all be supplied by a single manufacturer.
 
The car is innovative due to the materials used and its sophisticated design systems. All this plus a thrilling engine note and limited use of electronics (particularly in the transmission) are the ingredients that make the Fiat Punto a spectacular car over all types of terrain.

 
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