Rally New Zealand: Munchi's event summary

Munchi's Produce Points after Mâori Mission Jorge Perez Companc rejoined Federico Villagra as co-driver for the Munchi's Ford World Rally Team this weekend for the fifth round of the World Rally Championship (WRC). The Argentinean duo made...

Munchi's Produce Points after Mâori Mission

Jorge Perez Companc rejoined Federico Villagra as co-driver for the Munchi's Ford World Rally Team this weekend for the fifth round of the World Rally Championship (WRC). The Argentinean duo made steady progress during the 40th edition of Rally New Zealand, moving from eleventh position at the end of day one and finishing ninth overall.

This year's Rally New Zealand returned to Auckland for the first time since 2005, enabling rally organisers to reintroduce fast, flowing stages from 2005's rally alongside four brand new stages comprising of mixed gravel and tarmac road surfaces. A new service park at Queen's Wharf was built beside Auckland's harbour where thousands of lively WRC fans flocked to watch the official ceremonial start on Thursday evening.

The first leg of the 40th edition of Rally New Zealand began in dry conditions and saw fifty-six competitors venture 2 hours north to the Whangareri and Kaipara for a series of eight fast stages along flowing gravel roads. Mild temperatures and lack of rain meant stages were dusty with a thick layer of gravel; the 40-year-old Argentinean rally champion reported problems with finding the right rhythm during these opening stages.

Villagra was lying in twelfth position as he pulled into the midday remote service at Whangerai but during the afternoon the 40-year-old driver settled into a more consistent rhythm finishing SS6, SS8 and SS9 inside the top ten. This steady performance moved the duo into eleventh position at the end of day one, just 9.5 seconds off S-WRC competitor, Xevi Pons, who occupied tenth position.

Day two's stages were based south of Auckland, in the Franklin and Northern Waikato region with parts of the tests used in 2006, 2007 and 2008's rally and a repeat loop of a new 4.68km Super Special Stage set on tarmac at the international Hampton Downs Motor Race Circuit. Villagra steadily improved throughout the morning, producing three stage times inside the top ten and pulling into midday service at Hampton Downs in a comfortable tenth position.

Remote service regulations combined with the short 15 minute service at Hampton Downs meant that The Munchi's service team had limited time to change the set-up on the Ford Focus RS WRC and could only change the rear anti-roll bar. During the afternoon, the Munchi's team produced four top ten stage times and finished the end of day two, just 16.1 seconds off claiming ninth position.

The final day comprised of four tests over 81.70km near to the west coast town of Raglan and included the notoriously difficult Whaanga Coast stage which ran along the spectacular Tasman Sea coastline. All four stages were used in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 rally and SS18 and SS20 included the same 1.47km tarmac start with a smooth gravel finish. Despite the stage being quite short, it was very technical with lots of corners over blind crests.

Overnight rain made Friday's opening stages quite slippery but this caused no visible problems for the Argentinean duo whose confidence was evident in their stage times as a result of the overnight set-up. The spectacular Whaangra Coast stage, one of the most beautiful stages on the WRC calendar, consisted of fast, open roads with many crests in the first half and finished with several tight, twisty corners. After a fast first passing Villagra moved up into ninth position and the Spanish SWRC driver, Xevi Pons, moved back into tenth position. The second passing was more difficult for Villagra as he struggled with brakes on the final stage and lost a significant amount of time.

Despite the problem on the final stage, Villagra successfully held on to his ninth position overall and leaves the fifth round of WRC with a further haul of 6 manufacturer points for the Munchi's Ford World Rally Team.

Munchi's Ford WRT driver Federico Villagra said:

"During the first day I couldn't get a good rhythm. I felt like the wheels were spinning and I couldn't get a proper grip on the tests. The second day everything went better - the changes from the overnight service on the brakes and diff make the car run smoother in the morning's stages. I was very happy with the set-up during the final day and I felt like we were steadily improving. I found the morning's stages difficult but the afternoon was better as the surfaces were much cleaner. During the final stage I lost my brakes and lost a lot of time which was disappointing but I am pleased to have finished and felt we did well generally."

-source: munchi's

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Series WRC
Drivers Federico Villagra