Munchi’s gain experience on the Rally New Zealand roads
FIA World Rally Championship

Rally New Zealand, 31 August–2 September 2007

Final Report

Both Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team crews have successfully gained more valuable WRC experience at this weekend’s Rally New Zealand, round eleven of the FIA World Rally Championship. Federico Villagra/Jorge Perez Companc emerged as the superior duo for this event finishing a well earned eleventh position, equalling their best ever WRC result together.

Argentine team–mates Luis Perez Companc/Jose Maria Volta showed some of their best pace this year but were robbed of a top–ten position on the opening test after leaving the road on an extremely slippery section that caught out many other drivers. This cost the crew over five minutes forcing them to battle up from 61st position after stage 1.

To their credit they made it back to an amazing twelfth with two stages remaining but on the penultimate, in a bizarrely similar manner, they slid off again due to a pacenote which was a bit too ambitious for the high speed corner. As a result Companc spent several minutes in a field searching for a route back onto the stage and finished the rally in 23rd overall.

Team–mate Villagra had a fairly trouble–free run on his way to a well earned result. He used the opening day to learn the rally on his first attempt at it in a world rally car. A slight intercom problem on the opening stage impeded his hearing but a quick swap of helmets countered that problem until it could be rectified in first service.

Day 2 was again a learning curve especially with pacenotes, which Villagra admitted he wasn’t feeling as confident as he would like to feel with them. A small gearbox issue also lost him some time when he was forced him to use a manual gear change on the final stage.

This event covered 353 kilometres of stage distance over some of the most favoured roads by drivers. Rally HQ was based at the Mystery Creek Event Centre which is fenced by the 3.14 kilometre Mystery Creek super special stage.

Road position, weather and tyre choice together played a massive role here and were a decisive factor in Rally New Zealand’s overall results which at the top of the leaderboard was decided by just 0.3 seconds between first and second place, a record for a single WRC event.

The next event for the Munchi’s Ford WRT will be Rally Cataluyna in October. This will be round eight of their ten event 2007 campaign and the first tarmac rally of the year. The crews will be heading there in confident mood after a two–day asphalt test in Spain just a few months ago.

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Driver Luis Perez Companc said:
"This has been a difficult rally for me as the problem I had on the first day meant that I had to run at the front of the field for Saturday and Sunday. The roads were very slippery and there was so much loose gravel on top of the road that I was cleaning away for the other cars. I had a really good feeling with the car though when I had no problems and my pace and times were very good. The experience from this rally has been fantastic, it is quite a special event and to complete all the stages was very important.

"We did have some problems though and basically we made exactly the same mistake on both Friday and Sunday. We slid off the road, through a fence and into a field; not damaging the car but it took us a lot of time to actually find the way out of the field and through the gate. The car was working well and it was just a pity that we never really had a chance to push on some more."

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Driver Federico Villagra said:
"Everything has gone well for me here and we have had a good rally. The hardest thing was the road conditions, the surface was very slippery and it was so easy to make a mistake. When there were stages that were repeated we could see the improvement and progress from the first pass. It’s just a pity that there weren’t more stages in the rally that were repeated as this would have help us improve even more.

"The important thing here was to finish the rally and get the experience. It is a difficult rally with the cambered roads and the high speeds and I was happy with how I drove. I can say that I was not pushing at my full speed but it was better to learn the rally and the stages than go off the road. My confidence with the car is growing now after every rally."

Final Leaderboard
1. M Gronholm/T Rautiainen 3h 52m 53.9sec
2. S Loeb/D Elena +0.3sec
3. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +1m42.8sec
4. C Atkinson/S Prevot +2m32.3sec
5. J–M Latvala/M Anttila +2m36.9sec
6. D Sordo/M Marti +3m42.0sec
7. P Solberg/P Mills +3m54.7sec
8. U Aava/K Sikk +9m16.3sec
9. H Solberg/C Menkerud +9m54.6sec
10. M Wilson/M Orr +10m19.9sec
11. F Villagra/J Perez Companc +16m17.7sec
23. L P Companc/J M Volta +23m47.8sec

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