Villagra starts hard in WRC debut Munchi's Ford World Rally Team new-comer Federico Villagra has put in a solid effort finishing his first ever WRC event, in a world rally car, eleventh outright at this weekend's Rally d'Italia Sardegna, round...
Villagra starts hard in WRC debut
Munchi's Ford World Rally Team new-comer Federico Villagra has put in a solid effort finishing his first ever WRC event, in a world rally car, eleventh outright at this weekend's Rally d'Italia Sardegna, round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Partnered with new co-driver Jorge Perez Companc the pair showed consistent pace to finish just one place shy of a maiden manufacturer point for the Munchi's team.
No such luck, however, for team-mates Luis Perez Companc/Jose Maria Volta who retired from the rally after rolling heavily over the first pass of Monte Lerno on Saturday. The pair were uninjured but, as a result, their Munchi's Ford Focus RS WRC06 was too badly damaged to rejoin the event on Sunday.
The Mediterranean has again treated crews to blissful weather conditions with air temperatures averaging 25 degrees celsius and surface temperatures as high as 38. The event offered a unique sandy gravel surface which coated the hard Sardinian ground.
Legs 1 and 2 ran south of the event's Olbia headquarters around the mountainous Nuoro region, while leg 3 ran to the north consisting of six short tests around Tempio Pausania and Arzachena. The narrow island roads presented crews with a number of hurdles catching out many top drivers, including current world champion Sebastien Loeb. The 18 stages of Rally d'Italia Sardegna offered everything from majestic scenery to massive jumps, delighting the locals who made the trek to view some simply spectacular action.
For Companc day one also posed problems when he stopped 800 metres short of the final stage end with an electrical throttle problem. Via phone, with his Munchi's service crew, Companc was able to re-start the car but in the lengthy process, lost nine minutes and his attack on a top-ten position.
The Argentine's misfortune continued into leg 2 when he was caught out by a large rock that was not recorded in his pace-notes. With hard force the boulder pushed his Munchi's Focus RS across the road rolling it into a ditch ending his Rally d'Italia Sardegna campaign.
Villagra did exactly what he set out to achieve, get maximum mileage and experience in a whole new world of competition for the 39-year-old. His times improved noticeably over the three days, a positive sign for future events with the Munchi's WRT.
Apart from a small off five corners from the end of stage 9 there were no real problems for Villagra who took a steady approach towards his first event in a world rally car. His main concern was pace-noting; with the Argentine star admitting that he will need to adjust his noting system in order to suit the driving style that a world rally car demands. The next Rally in the Munchi's ten event 2007 calendar will be the BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally from the 1-3 June.
Munchi's Ford World Rally Team Driver Luis Perez Companc said:
"The rally started off quite well for us but then in the afternoon of the first day we had a few problems. I overshot a junction on stage 4, losing 30 seconds, as the braking was very slippery even on the second pass and I slid off on a fast corner; luckily though there was a lot of room and we just lost some time. Then we had a throttle problem and the car stopped 800 metres from the end of stage 6. With the team's help on the telephone we got it started again and it turned out to be an electrical problem. We lost a few minutes but made it back to final service. I just needed to concentrate for day 2 and try to put in some good times.
"Saturday started well and the first stage was very good. I had the perfect road position and this meant I could follow the racing line easily and keep it all neat and I was really happy with my driving. I was trying to do the same on the second stage but unfortunately I had a pace-note that wasn't exactly correct. There was a rock and I didn't have a warning in my notes to stay far enough out from it. This forced me over to the wrong side of the road and I hit a boulder with my right rear wheel; this pushed the car across the road and we went off on the other side, rolling into a ditch. It was quite a heavy impact and the car was damaged badly."
Munchi's Ford World Rally Team Driver Federico Villagra said:
"I just started off quite steadily, trying to get used to the car and the stages with the new co-driver. I really wanted to finish this rally and get as many of the stages completed as possible so I was not pushing much. The first loop of stages was difficult, just getting used to the car, and the pace-notes weren't really as good as normal. The notes worked better on the second pass of stages and it was much easier to drive the car without thinking about it as much."
"It has been quite hard and it's not easy learning the car when you are running quite close to first on the road. There is so much loose gravel and the car is sliding and spinning wheels with the low grip making it difficult for me to get a good feeling and learn the new car. The biggest improvement has been in my confidence; now I can go to Greece and I know more what the car will do. It is still hard to know the limits but the feeling is much better for Greece."