Tough test for Munchi‘s tarmac mission
FIA World Rally Championship

Rally RACC Catalunya Costa Daurada, 5–7 October 2007

Final Report

It‘s been a successful debut on tarmac for one half of the Munchi‘s Ford World Rally Team at this weekend‘s Rally RACC Catalunya Costa Daurada. Federico Villagra/Jorge Perez Companc gained maximum experience mileage as they claimed 13th overall and finished the rally without major incident.

Team–mates Luis Perez Companc/Jose Maria Volta had no such fortune, sliding off the road on a low–speed corner on just the second stage of the rally as a result of mud on the tarmac surface. Unfortunately for Companc it was game over after initially looking likely that he would re–start leg 2 under SupeRally regulations.

Once the car was retrieved and transported back to the Munchi‘s service area, technicians revealed a small amount of damage to the roll cage of his Munchi‘s Ford Focus RS WRC06 but enough to force the Argentine out of the event entirely.

Rally Catalunya again proved to be an unpredictable event with weather conditions making things tricky for teams as tyre choice became a critical factor for overall standings. The dry asphalt BFGoodrich g–Force tyre held strong and the specially designed moose inserts did their job when sharp gravel stones caused occasional punctures throughout the rally.

The top–ten positions from the end of leg 1 remained the same for the duration of Rally Catalunya proving the toughness in gaining extra seconds here. Of the 24 world rally cars to start the event, 20 managed to make their way to the finish over these fast, wide and flowing Catalan stages.

Villagra drove extremely well in Spain improving after every stage on his first ever tarmac rally. While he still has a lot to learn about steering his Focus RS on the sealed surface, the Argentine said the feeling and confidence with the car grew and grew as the event went on.

It was unlucky for Companc as this was his first and only tarmac event for the year and three days of testing were spent in the build–up period to the rally. While he only completed one full stage, the time did show merit and the hunger for tarmac driving was certainly taken on board. The Munchi‘s Ford WRT will miss next weekend‘s Rally de France but for Villagra, competitive rallying is still to be tackled. Next weekend sees the penultimate round of the Argentine national championship, which Villagra currently leads by 19.5 points. Mathematically he can clinch the title on that event but will have to keep his closest rival, Marcos Ligato, at bay.

The next event in the Munchi‘s ten–event campaign is Rally Japan, 26–28 October.

Munchi‘s Ford World Rally Team Driver Luis Perez Companc said:
"It was a second gear corner that caught me out. I was too much on the inside of the corner where there was some mud and we just under– steered off at low speed. There were a lot of spectators there and they tried to get the car back onto the road but it was stuck. It looked like there was no damage done, we just couldn‘t get it back on the road. The first stage had gone really well and I was starting to get some confidence. My pace notes were good in the slow corners but too slow in the fast corners and there were a few places I was backing off when it was still flat out. Unfortunately we weren‘t able to re–start as there was some small damage to the roll cage. This was disappointing as it would have been really good and quite important to get more experience on asphalt."

Munchi‘s Ford World Rally Team Driver Federico Villagra said:
"The rally started well for me. The hardest part of the first day was getting the feeling on asphalt and also realising the corners that will be cut and knowing where exactly the other cars will drag gravel onto the road. I have been surprised a few times when I came across the slippery conditions but managed to keep it under control. The car was working very well for me and Jorge did a good job also. I started off steadily as I needed to learn more about driving on asphalt. The second and third days were easier for us because the weather was good and the roads were dry. We decided to enjoy the stages, and the rally, and this has turned out to be a good decision.

"The pacenotes here have been very good, perfect in the slow corners but there may be some faster corners where we could have gone harder, but this is where the experience comes into play. We made good progress on the last two days and all the tyre choices have been correct. The information we received from the safety crew was very important and has been a fantastic help. The changes they make to the notes and the areas they warn us about are exactly right. The car was feeling really good today and when I look back to the difference from Friday, it is easy to see the improvements we made during the rally; both with the car set–up and my driving style."

Final Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena 3h 22m 50.5sec
2. D Sordo/M Marti +13.8sec
3. M Gronholm/T Rautiainen +39.8sec
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +1m25.8sec
5. F Duval/P Pivato +2m28.7sec
6. P Solberg/P Mills +2m54.1sec
7. J–M Latvala/M Anttila +3m38.2sec
8. C Atkinson/S Prevot +4m22.4sec
9. X Pons/X Amigo +5m04.1sec
10. H Solberg/C Menkerud +10m32.2sec
11. M Wilson/M Orr +12m39.6sec
13. F Villagra/J Perez Companc RA +16m36.2sec

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