Munchi’s Secure Points After Middle Eastern Mission
The fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship saw Federico Villagra win the battle for seventh place against fellow Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver Khalid Al Qassimi and secured the Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team their best result in the 2011 WRC so far.
Organisers were forced to cancel Thursday’s opening leg covering 73.48 km due to the late arrival of service park infrastructure meaning the WRC’s only round in the Middle East was to be decided by Friday and Saturday’s stages only.
The revised itinerary, however, did not bode well for Villagra and co-driver Jorge Pérez Companc as the Argentinean duo were forced to combat one of the longest stages on the WRC calendar on the opening loop – the 41.45 km Jordan River Stage – with a set-up they were unhappy with.
At the midday service, the team lowered the ride-height, suspension and damper settings and the change in car set-up was immediately reflected in Villagra’s stage times - he completed the repeat pass of the 17.20 km Kafrain stage 17 seconds quicker than he did that morning. The Munchi’s Ford driver climbed a further two places in the afternoon and pulled into the end of day service ninth overall, feeling confident going into the final day.
Villagra started the final day of action 4.5 seconds adrift of Khalid Al Qassimi, determined to move further up the WRC leaderboard in order to score his best points-finish of 2011 so far. At end of day’s opening stage, Villagra moved into eighth and the battle between the Argentine and Emirati driver was reduced to a mere 3.8 seconds.
A small impact on Stage 14 meant caused havoc with the oil pressure light in Villagra’s Fiesta RS WRC so the Munchi’s Ford driver opted for a cautious driving technique for the leg’s remaining two stages. The engine sump was replaced at the midday service and the Argentine reported a good set-up on the day’s closing loop, consolidating the Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team’s seventh place finish and a healthy points haul of eight points.
Villagra will return to drive for the Munchi’s Ford at Rally Sardinia next month but is due to compete in the second round of the Argentine Rally Championship – Rally de Villa Dolores in Cordoba – which will run in his homeland next weekend.
Federico Villagra said:
“Everything has been great today – much better than it was yesterday. I just wasn’t happy with the set-up on Friday morning, I felt like I couldn’t control the rear of the car and it was very slippery over the crests. But I must say that Michelin have done a great job with the new tyres – there was lots of rocks on the stages yesterday and I was quite surprised that none of the drivers suffered from a puncture. We made some changes at service today which made the car run very nicely this afternoon and we’ve finished good points for the championship so I am happy. I’ve gradually been improving my results in the championship so far and I hope that I can do even better in Sardinia next month but first I must concentrate on my next rally at home which is next weekend.”