Fantastic fourth for Federico in Argentina Munchi's Ford crew Federico Villagra and Jorge Perez Companc set the pulses of local fans racing on the final day of Rally Argentina as they climbed up to fourth place overall securing their, and the ...
Fantastic fourth for Federico in Argentina
Munchi's Ford crew Federico Villagra and Jorge Perez Companc set the pulses of local fans racing on the final day of Rally Argentina as they climbed up to fourth place overall securing their, and the Munchi's team's, best ever FIA World Rally Championship finish in front of a jubilant Argentine crowd.
Villagra, the seven-time Argentine champion, had used his experience and guile throughout the race to stay on the pace of the leading crews and as others succumbed to the difficult conditions on day three of the rally he stayed on track to beat his previous best WRC finish, sixth place at the same rally last year.
Local man Villagra received a warm welcome in the Cordoba Stadium on Thursday night during the Super Special stage, but he gave the legions of enthusiastic local fans lining the stages even more to celebrate as he charged up the field on day one.
Lying in 11th place after the first stage, Villagra and Companc lost time on SS2 La Cumbre -- Agua de Oro after stalling the car at a hairpin corner. But he recovered from that error and by the end of the morning had moved up to eighth place despite suffering a couple of heavy knocks in the early stages and a loose steering wheel on SS5.
The Cordoba resident has more experience on the Rally Argentina stages than any other WRC driver in the field and he put that hard-earned knowledge to good use as he overhauled the lead of Matthew Wilson ahead of him on the morning stages of Day Two.
Urged on by thousands of fans high in the hills around the famous Mina Clavero and El Condor stages he started the day 15.9 seconds behind Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Wilson but ended it back in the Cordoba Stadium with an 18-second advantage over the young Briton. The man known as the Coyote received a hero's welcome during the second Super Special stage on Saturday night as he proudly flew the Argentine flag from his Ford Focus RS WRC.
But that reaction was surpassed on Sunday as Villagra returned to Cordoba for the final Super Special stage in fourth place. After starting day three lying in sixth place Villagra kept his cool as Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg, who both started the day ahead of him, suffered mechanical problems and he moved up the standings.
Villagra's result was not the only cause for celebration at the Munchi's Ford WRT. Jose Diaz, Villagra's co-driver at the Rally de Portugal last month, finished in eighth place co-driving for Juan Marchetto in their Mitsubishi Evo IX.
The Munchi's Ford WRT are now in hot pursuit of the Citroen Junior team in the manufacturer standings, trailing them by just one point despite having only contested three of the five rallies so far this season.
Meanwhile Villagra is level on points with Jari-Matti Latvala in the driver standings after a superb start to the season that has seen him score points on every rally.
Also competing today in a race of a different kind was Luis Perez Companc, brother of Jorge. The former Munchi's driver was running the London Marathon and his split times were being closely monitored by brother Jorge in the rally car.
Munchi's Ford driver Federico Villagra said:
"We really couldn't have hoped for more from this event and both Jorge and myself are delighted with the fourth place finish. We wanted this rally to be special and it certainly was. The fans on the stages were a big boost to us and they really spurred me on and helped me raise my game. It wasn't an easy rally and the conditions were some of the roughest I have seen here, but we managed to keep the speed up without damaging the car. I really enjoyed the battle with Matthew but I think my experience on the stages helped to keep us in front of him. The plan coming into this rally was to try and achieve our best finish on our home event and I'm happy to say we have done just that."
Munchi's Ford team manager Martin Christie said:
"It's been a perfect weekend and we have had a fantastic result on our home rally. Everyone in the Munchi's Ford Team is absolutely delighted and Federico and Jorge have really given the local fans something to cheer about. We have closed the gap on the Citroen Junior Team, our nearest rivals in the manufacturer championship, and that's a great achievement considering we are a single-car team."
Other rally news
Sebastien Loeb looked virtually unstoppable as he took his fifth victory of the season, 73 seconds ahead of Citroen team mate Dani Sordo. Stobart VK M-Sport Ford drivers Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson secured the team's best finish since Rally Japan in 2007 with third and fifth respectively.
After the disappointment of losing Mikko Hirvonen from the rally at the end of day two as his engine overheated the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team suffered a further blow on day three when Jari-Matti Latvala's engine stopped and he lost around eight minutes. The Finn recovered from the problem to finish in sixth place.
There was also frustration for Petter Solberg who had been on course for a podium finish until he was forced to retire from the rally on SS20.