Rally de Portugal
Healthy Points Haul For Munchi’s Ford In Portugal
Argentina’s Federico Villagra celebrated a return to points-scoring form at Vodafone Rally de Portugal this weekend after finishing eighth and securing six well-earned points for his Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team.
Villagra and co-driver Jose Diaz had problems with intermittent misfire in their M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RS WRC on Friday’s opening 64.57 km loop but by the end of Stage 4, the South American pairing were placed 11th overall. During Service A the team altered the set-up and lowered the ride-height and the Argentine driver reported better car handling for the repeat afternoon pass.
The changes made during Service A were evident in Villagra’s performance as by the end of Stage 7, the Munchi’s Ford driver had climbed the WRC leaderboard to eighth place, 1.2 seconds ahead of former Formula One Champion Kimi Räikkönen and just 48.2 seconds off claiming seventh place.
Saturday consisted of a repeat loop of three gravel speed tests in the hills above the Algarve coastline. Overnight rain dampened the roads but they quickly dried to leave a layer of loose gravel which proved troublesome for many of the WRC front-runners. However, Villagra adopted a mature driving approach to tackle the tricky conditions, finding a good pace where the battle for seventh place with Räikkönen continued.
By the end of the second day, Räikkönen led Villagra by 14.8 seconds but with four stages on Sunday remaining including a repeat pass of the event’s longest stage of the rally – Santana de Serra – the Argentine was keen to push for seventh place.
Sunday morning, however, saw the gap between Villagra and Räikkönen extend to 22.1 seconds as Villagra reported cold tyres and slippery road conditions. A trouble-free afternoon followed and the nine-time Argentine Rally Champion pulled into the final service at the Algarve Stadium eighth overall.
Federico Villagra said:
“We have been pushing today to try and catch up with Kimi but the tyres were cold on the first stage and the conditions so slippery that we struggled to find a good pace. It’s been a tough rally but we’ve enjoyed ourselves this weekend and it was important to get some more time in the car after our incident in Mexico. I think we’ve found a good set-up at the rally and I’m feeling more and more confident with the car after each event. We’ve seen a lot of accidents this weekend and today we wanted to concentrate on getting to the end and leaving with some points for the championship. Now I will go home to prepare for the first round of my home championship which was supposed to be last weekend but was cancelled – I hope the experience will help even more for when I return to the WRC in Jordan next month.”