One spectator has died and several more are seriously injured after a car veered off course into a crowd during a rally event in the Republic of San Marino.

RallyLegend organisers said in a statement that the car "went off the road and hit some straw bales protecting a run-off path" and that the spectators affected were "standing right behind the bales."

The car involved was a Renault Clio Maxi driven by Enrico Bonaso with Alice Palazzi as navigator.

Sunday's race was cancelled and local authorities immediately opened a criminal investigation into the incident.

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It was the 14th edition of the event.

San Marino is nestled atop a hill in central Italy near Rimini and the Adriatic coast.