Munchi’s in search of more points in New Zealand
FIA World Rally Championship

Rally New Zealand, 31 August–2 September 2007

Event Preview

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team heads to Rally New Zealand next week after their best points finish in Finland just three weeks ago. Round eleven of the FIA World Rally Championship will be the seventh in the Munchi’s ten event 2007 campaign.

Currently the team lie sixth in the Manufacturers’ Championship with six points to their tally. Both Luis Perez Companc /Jose Maria Volta and Federico Villagra/Jorge Perez Companc have experience of the event and will be looking to utilise this against the 14–strong world rally car contingent entered in New Zealand.

Rally New Zealand is the longest running World Championship event in the Southern Hemisphere. Celebrating its 38th year of competition the rally was introduced way back in 1977 and has run 21 times under WRC status.

In speed, stages are similar to that of Argentina or Finland but the stone–covered, loose gravel surface is quite unique in itself. Like Australia, being first on the road can become quite a disadvantage as the top crews are left to ’sweep’ the roads leaving competitors down the order a cleaner surface with more visible lines and better grip.

Based in Hamilton, the event runs through the Waikato region which is bounded by the Tasman Sea. The coastal region is largely rough hill country, though it is more gently undulating in the north, closer to the mouth of the Waikato River.

Companc has a good relationship with this rally finishing seventh last year; his best ever result in a WRC event outside his native country of Argentina. His most recent events, Greece and Finland, have proven to be his most successful for 2007 and both being fast gravel events, Companc will be hoping to shine in New Zealand and score his first driver’s point of the year.

’Coyote’ Villagra, as he is known, has been keeping his WRC preparations up–to–speed by competing in his national championship. Finishing second in last weekend’s Rally de General Roca, round six of the Argentine National Championship, means Villagra still leads the championship by 19.5 points over his closest rival. His experience of Rally New Zealand dates back to 2005 when he competed in the Production class finishing a commendable seventh place.

All three Munchi’s Ford Focus RS WRC06 cars will run on low and medium–wearing BFGoodrich g–Force gravel tyres. Tyre choice can play a vital role on these stone–covered, gravel roads and some of the long, demanding, but very fast, stages will certainly test the tyres and drivers to a maximum.

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Driver Luis Perez Companc said:
"Rally New Zealand is one of my favourite events and one that I am really looking forward to. The car felt extremely good there last year and I generally enjoy that type of rally with fast, flowing roads. Last year was one of the first gravel events we used the 06 car on but we have much more experience of this car now and the testing on gravel in Spain has helped a lot with the feeling and suspension settings."

"The team are all on a high now after the result in Finland where both myself and Federico scored points for the Munchi’s team. We both learnt valuable information from Finland and I’m sure that this will help when we start in New Zealand. The car settings for both events are quite similar so we should get into a good rhythm from the start of the rally. I’m feeling good, confidence is high and our pacenotes are good from last year; hopefully we can grab some more points again."

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Driver Federico Villagra said:
"It will be easy to drive too fast on this rally I think. The confidence is good from Finland and the feeling that I have with the rally car is growing better all the time and so I think I need to be careful. I will try not to push too hard from the start but build my speed up throughout the rally. The main aim for me is to get to the finish and gain more experience of these fantastic roads."

"In Finland things went very well and we learnt more about the set–up of the car that works for me. Another important thing was my pacenotes as they got better as I got more experience of the fast gravel roads. All of these improvements will help next week but it will still take time before I can push hard. The other drivers have pacenotes from last year but we will have to make new ones. The roads are fast with good camber but they can catch you out easily as well, especially on the loose gravel and if it rains it will be very slippery."

Event Information
Date: 31 August – 2 September 2007
Round: 11 of 16 FIA World Rally Championship
Based: Hamilton, New Zealand
Total distance: 1255.98km (353.56 competitive)
Stage surface: gravel
Number of stages: 18
Number of different stage venues: 11
Maximum number of times same stage roads are used: three (Mystery Creek stage 5+9+18)
Longest stage: 43.88km (stage 2 & 4)
Highest elevation on stage: 560 metres (on stage 1 & 3)
Central Service Park: Mystery Creek, 15km southeast of Hamilton
Shakedown Stage: 3.08km long at Mystery Creek
Ceremonial Start: 18:30 Thursday from Hood St Hamilton
Leg one: Friday 31 August. Cars starting SS1, Pirongia West 1 at 09:18, tackling 127.52km
Leg two: Saturday 01 September. Cars starting SS6, Port Waikato at 09:03, tackling 130.10km
Leg three: Sunday 02 September. Cars starting SS12, Maungatawhiri 1 at 09:03, tackling 95.94km

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