KITZBUEHEL  - Dominik Paris of Italy belied his relative inexperience on Saturday to keep his nerve and win the toughest and most dangerous event on the World Cup circuit, the men's Kitzbuehel downhill.

The 23-year-old Italian timed 1min 57.56sec to finish 0.13sec ahead of Canada's Eric Guay, with Austrian Hannes Reichelt completing the podium at 0.36sec in front of a baying crowd of 50,000 people in brilliant sunshine. It was Paris' second downhill victory of the season (and his career) after tying with Reichelt for first place in Bormio, Italy, in December.

"It's an unbelievable day," said Guay. "I'm very excited to be down here in second place. Kitzbuehel is legendary. This is one of the harder courses I've seen. The conditions are quite bumpy, quite icy, big jumps and everybody was charging hard. That's what I love about racing, it's how much you can push those limits, you can find in yourself how far you're willing to push that."

Paris' win ensured host nation Austria are now six seasons without a winner on the the Streif, a course described by the US ski team as the "Super Bowl of alpine skiing" and likened by Norwegian star Aksel Lund Svindal to the Monaco Formula One race - you're either on the track or in the wall. Svindal, winner of Friday's super-G, missed his line into the lower Hausberg section - but managed to stay on track, losing valuable hundredths of a second to finish 10th at 1.16sec.

"You have to race well if you want to win and today I didn't race well," said Svindal. Italian Christof Innerhofer, who placed third in the super-G but was demoted to the disadvantageous starting number of 46 after ignoring federation rules following a crash in training, made a brave attempt for a second podium.

Leading on the first two splits after an aggressive start, he however faded badly on a course that had been cut up badly by his forerunners and finished 1.92sec off the pace.

The Hahnenkamm, or rooster's comb, mountain takes no prisoners, with racers touching 100kph within 8.5 seconds of leaving the start. Saturday's 73rd running of the event, which made its debut in 1931, was over a piste more than 3.3 kilometres long, with racers reaching motorway-coasting speeds of 140kph while being forced into negotiating 80-metre jumps.

This year's race took place in the shadow of the now-retired Swiss racer Didier Cuche, who notched up a fifth downhill victory in 2012 to better the previous record for downhill wins on the mountain he jointly held with Austrian ski legend Franz Klammer. Cuche's teammate Didier Defago, the only past winner of Kitzbuehel's prestigious downhill (in 2009) to be in the running this year, came in 25th at 2.27sec.

There were a few dramatic crashes on the unforgiving course, notably by Frenchman Johan Clarey and Italian Peter Fill. Clarey, who set a new record for speed in an alpine ski race as he reached 161.9kph at Wengen's downhill last week, slid heavily into the netting at the rutted Hausberg. Fill went wide on a turn early on and mounted the safety padding into the netting, but also escaped serious injury.