Munchi's set for Japanese Jaunt Munchi's Ford World Rally Team driver Federico Villagra will return to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) next week where he will aim to extend his one point lead in the FIA Drivers' Championship Standings...
Munchi's set for Japanese Jaunt
Munchi's Ford World Rally Team driver Federico Villagra will return to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) next week where he will aim to extend his one point lead in the FIA Drivers' Championship Standings over fellow Ford Focus RS WRC driver, Henning Solberg.
This will be the third time that Federico Villagra and co-driver, Jorge Perez Companc, will have competed at the Asian-based event and the duo are keen to improve on their previous outing at the rally when they finished ninth overall in 2008.
The eight-time Argentinean Rally Champion has a strong track record at Rally Japan -- Villagra finished seventh the first time he contested the rally in 2007 and also scored his first WRC points at the event. Villagra's past knowledge of the stages in Japan should hold him in good stead when competing against former Formula One Champion, Kimi Raikkonen, who is currently five points behind Villagra in the Drivers' Standings. However, Henning Solberg is only one point off claiming eighth position from the Argentinean and the experienced Norwegian driver will be tough competition to beat.
The Munchi's Ford World Rally Team will look to replicate the consistency it has delivered in both the WRC and Argentine Rally Championship this year and aim to leave the tenth round of the WRC with a seventh consecutive points finish and to consolidate their eighth place in the Drivers' Championship Standings.
Rally Japan returns to the WRC calendar after a year out in 2009 in accordance with the FIA's event rotation system. After making its WRC debut in 2004, the championship's Asian event has quickly become a popular fixture in the calendar, and one which attracts a huge number of dedicated fans from throughout the host country.
The popular event is based on Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's islands but from 2004 to 2007 the rally used the twisty, narrow and soft gravel stages of the Tokachi region, close to the city of Obihiro.
However, for the most recent edition of Rally Japan in 2008, the event moved to a new base in the city of Sapporo, Hokkaido's main city with a selection of gravel stages in the surrounding countryside and forests. It also featured one of the most spectacular Super Specials of the year; which ran inside and outside the spectacular Sapporo Dome sports stadium.
There will be a few tweaks to this year's route as it features six new stages and the rally has also moved slightly further north compared to 2008. There will be eight runs round the 1.57 km Super Special Stage at the Sapporo Dome arena throughout the event, including a ceremonial start and two laps of the Super Special on the Thursday evening.
The first full day of action will consist of a repeat loop of three stages totalling 116.46 km which are based to the south of Sapporo. All three stages have been used in previous years and are forestry based. The end of the first day will culminate with two Super Special Stages round the Sapporo Dome sports stadium.
Saturday is the longest day of this year's Rally Japan and includes a repeat loop of three stages based south-east of the service park. It also includes the longest stage of the rally, Kamuycep, which is a 33.76km forest-based test (SS12 and SS15). The day will again finish with two Super Special Stages back at the Sapporo Dome.
The final day will run without a midday service and a new addition to the four-day event is the spectator-friendly stage, Sunagawa, which provides great viewing opportunities thanks to a stage start on a tarmac kart course (SS21 and SS24). The remaining six stages on Sunday include two more laps round the Sapporo Dome and also a repeat loop of two new tests based north-east of the service park.
Argentine Rally Championship News
Villagra has not contested a round of the WRC since Vodafone Rally de Portugal which was back in May but over their winter, the Argentinean duo have been busy competing in three rounds of the Argentine Rally Championship. After winning Rally Vuelta de la Manzana and finishing second at last weekend's Rally de Goya, Villagra is currently placed second in the championship - just four points off snatching first position from Gabriel Pozzo. There are four rounds remaining in this year's Argentine Rally Championship and Villagra is hoping to close the gap on Pozzo to try and clinch his ninth victory at his home championship.
Munchi's Ford WRT driver Federico Villagra said:
"I'm delighted to be back driving in the WRC after nearly three months away from the championship. I've been to Japan twice before and I really enjoy this event -- the stages are similar to what they're like in my home country of Argentina; quite soft with some very technical sections. I have fond memories of this event because this was the first rally I scored WRC points and both times that I've competed in Japan I've finished inside the top ten. I've also had two very successful rallies in the Argentine Rally Championship during August and managed two podium finishes so I'm feeling confident that I can do well when I return to the WRC next week."