Munchi's magic heads to Japan in search of final event glory The final round of the Munchi's Ford World Rally Team's 10-event, 2008 FIA World Rally Championship campaign gets underway next week as the Argentine outfit heads to Sapporo for Rally...
Munchi's magic heads to Japan in search of final event glory
The final round of the Munchi's Ford World Rally Team's 10-event, 2008 FIA World Rally Championship campaign gets underway next week as the Argentine outfit heads to Sapporo for Rally Japan.
Heading the team, as they have done all year for the side, will be Federico Villagra/Jorge Perez Companc as they join forces with the Norwegian pairing of Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud for the fifth time this year.
The Munchi's Ford WRT currently lie fifth in the Manufacturers' Championship just one point ahead of Suzuki's factory side coming into the event. With the Japanese manufacturer planning to contest the final WRC round in December the Munchi's outfit will be looking to rack-up a healthy points bundle in Japan in an attempt to secure fifth place for the year.
Villagra posted his best result of seventh in the 2007 WRC season here in Japan and the Argentine will be searching to better this performance on roads which are said to be similar in nature to that of his homeland. Currently 12th outright in this year's championship 'Coyote' will be hoping to add to his driver points tally in Japan as he currently sits just four points outside a top-10 berth.
After the Tarmac event in Spain Villagra headed back to Argentina for the latest round of the Argentine Rally Championship which he still leads comfortably. This extra time on gravel will help as he attempts to fire out of the blocks from the start of the Sapporo-based stages.
Solberg has a short but stunning history in Japan and it is the last event where he stood on the WRC rostrum when he sped home to third in 2007 with the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team. It's this kind of fast, slippery gravel roads that the Norwegian has become accustomed to and this year it could be Solberg who puts the Munchi's on the WRC podium for the first time in their two year history.
This year Rally Japan has moved to an all-new precinct to the bustling city of Sapporo which is the biggest city in the north island of Hokkaide. In keeping with typical Rally Japan tradition there will be no less than 29 stages run over the three days which includes five passes over the purpose-build Sapporo Dome super special which will also host Rally HQ and Service Park throughout the event.
With a brand new location the rally is set to be a cracker with new stages and pacenotes for everybody as a complete control tyre comes back into play with all WRC crews running on a soft compound Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyre for the Japanese event.
Munchi's Ford World Rally Team Driver Federico Villagra said:
"This is going to be an interesting rally and I prefer lots of smaller stages rather than not so many long ones so for me I think it will help having 29 stages to cover. It is a new rally for everyone which will make things more even but I really don't know what to expect of these conditions because I know nothing about the region. I like to visit Japan, it is a different culture with different things to see and the people there are crazy about rally. Since Spain I have been rallying in Argentina on gravel again so my feeling should be good from the start. Last year I had a very good result here and again this season we will be pushing hard to collect some good points for me and also for the Munchi's team which is still ahead of Suzuki in the Manufacturer Championship."
Munchi's Ford World Rally Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"I was on the podium in Japan last year and I would love to be on it again in 2008. I like the type of stages there were in Obihiro and I hope these will be similar in Sapporo. Last time I was on gravel was in New Zealand and we won seven stages... that was more than Sebastien and he won the rally! I hope the setup of the Focus from New Zealand will work as well in Japan and then for sure we can be pushing for a podium. Japan is a great place for Rallying, especially all the fans there and last year I discovered Sushi, this is the proper stuff. I will try my best for some good points here because I can still move up a place in the championship and also the Munchi's want to stay in front of Suzuki so I will do my best to help add some good points to their team's tally."
Date: 31 Oct -- 2 Nov 2008
Round: 14 of 15 FIA World Rally Championship
Based: Sapporo, Japan
Stage surface: Gravel
Total stage distance: 343.69 km
Number of stages: 29
Longest stage: Kamuycep at 33.66km (SS13 & 17)
Central Service Park: Sapporo Dome