He had trailed overnight leader Andreas Mikkelsen, in an identical SKODA Fabia Super 2000, by 4.5 seconds starting Saturday’s first stage but moved in front by going 5.3s quicker than the Norwegian which was won by Giandomencio Basso in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta RRC.
Basso was the highest-placed Italian driver in third overall.
Massimiliano Rendina and Simone Campedelli won the IRC Production Cup and IRC 2WD Cup respectively.
Mikkelsen, who won the IRC title in 2011 with co-driver Ola Fløene, said: “I didn’t know Gareth very well, but he seemed like a really great guy and he was clearly a very good co-driver. Ola and I send our condolences to Gareth’s family, friends and to Craig.”
Basso said: “This is one of those terrible, chance things that is very hard to believe. It’s a horrible situation we are all faced with together and I am so sad and sorry.”
Paolo Andreucci, the six-time Targa Florio winner who finished fifth on the event, said: “I feel very bad…very bad. Unfortunately a very talented young man has gone. In the fullness of time, maybe we need to look more in detail at the causes and what exactly happened to see if we can learn anything. But for now though, I’m just thinking of Gareth, Craig and his family.”
FINAL TOP 10 IRC POSITIONS (RESULTS DECLARED AFTER SS8)
1 Jan Kopecký (CZE)/Pavel Dresler (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 1h04m59.1s
2 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Fløene (NOR) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +0.8s
3 Giandomencio Basso (ITA)/Mitia Dotta (ITA) M-Sport Ford Fiesta RRC +2.5s
4 Umberto Scandola (ITA)/Guido D’Amore (ITA) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +23.5s
5 Paolo Andreucci (ITA)/Anna Andreussi (ITA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +33.3s
6 Matteo Gamba (ITA)/Emanuele Inglesi (ITA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +54.4s
7 Sepp Wiegand (GER)/Timo Gottschalk (GER) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +1m08.7s
8 Alessandro Perico (ITA)/Fabrizio Carrara (ITA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m17.5s
9 Massimiliano Rendina (ITA)/Mario Pizzuti (ITA) Ralliart Lancer Evolution X +4m44.1s
10 Robert Consani (FRA)/Nicolas Klinger (FRA) Renault Mégane RS +4m58.6s