Munchi's move up after thrilling final day in Portugal
Munchi's Ford World Rally Team driver Federico Villagra seized seventh place at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal, the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, charging up the leaderboard on the final day to score his first points of the season in the driver standings. The result also means that the Munchi's Ford team have scored manufacturer points on both rallies so far this season.
Following a successful start to his eight-rally WRC campaign in Cyprus last month, Villagra looked to build on that performance. Regular co-driver Jorge Perez Companc was unavailable for this round of the championship but an able replacement was found in the shape of Jose Diaz and the Argentine duo lived up to expectations with an impressive top-ten finish.
The rally kicked off with an exciting Super Special stage in the Algarve Stadium which is more used to hosting top football matches than WRC stages. Thousands of fans watched on as drivers raced head-to-head on a specially constructed tarmac track. And Villagra got his rally off to a superb start, finishing seventh on the 2.2km course in illustrious company with former world champions Petter Solberg just behind him and Marcus Gronholm just ahead.
The seven-time Argentine champion had difficulties making pacenotes in some areas of the recce as the dusty conditions caused problems with visibility and he lost some time due to this on the fast, tricky stages of the first day.
Damage sustained to the steering arm on the 23.42km SS5 Ourique stage lost Villagra more time and made life on the next stage even more difficult as the steering wheel was out of line following temporary roadside repairs by the crew. He finished the day in 12th place.
Day Two started well for the Munchi's crew as they moved up two places early-on putting them well into the manufacturer points. They encountered more minor difficulties with their pacenotes but overcame those issues to keep a consistent pace throughout the day.
Villagra's experience in the WRC has grown over the last year and while many crews were struggling to stay on the road as the loose surface and winding roads of the final day took their toll in the hills to the north of the Service Park, he kept a cool head and moved steadily up the field to finish in an impressive seventh place on only his second outing of the WRC this season.
Munchi's Ford World Rally Team now lie just four points behind the Citroen Junior team in the manufacturer standings despite starting half the number of rallies so far this season while Villagra himself is now eighth equal with Chris Atkinson in the drivers' championship on four points.
Munchi's Ford driver Federico Villagra said:
"This is another great result for us; in fact it's a fantastic start to the season. We have got manufacturer points on the first two events and now also here I've got some points for the drivers' championship as well. It was all happening on the last few stages today and with all the other problems, we managed to get moved up a few places. This was a difficult rally and I found it very hard to get the pacenotes working right and to be able to commit to my notes. We weren't able to find a good speed and I had to drive much slower than I wanted but the most important thing for me was to not make any mistakes. Luckily the other guys did on the last day and we ended up in a great position. So now to Argentina, my home rally, and it feels amazing to be going there after such a great start to the season."
Other Rally News
Reigning World Champion Sebastien Loeb notched up his 51st WRC victory storming through the field on Day Two to take an unassailable 30-second lead into the final day. Early rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala crashed out of the rally in spectacular style on the first day after somersaulting the barrier and flipping the car almost 20 times before coming to rest against a tree. The casualties continued on the final day as Citroen Junior drivers Evgeny Novikov, Conrad Rautenbach and Stobart VK M-Sport driver Matthew Wilson all crashed out.