Villagra posts personal best on Munchi’s home soil
The Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team have continued their impressive run in the FIA World Rally Championship picking up four valuable manufacturers’ points on Rally Argentina this weekend. The team maintains fifth in the Manufacturers’ Championship ahead of Suzuki’s works outfit in just their second event for the season.

Federico Villagra/Jorge Pérez Companc topped the timesheets for the team, finishing their home event in sixth position. The result has seen Villagra achieve his best ever finish in a world championship event and all in his home town of Córdoba.

He also shoots up the WRC Drivers’ Championship to occupy eighth. It was a fantastic achievement this weekend after the Argentine lost over 10 minutes in the afternoon loop of stages on day 2 with exhaust issues.

Team-mates Luis Pérez Companc/José María Volta were not so fortunate however, retiring from the event on stage 8, running ninth overall at the time. Pérez Companc slid off the road eight kilometres from the end of the 18.7 kilometre stage causing some small damage to the suspension of his Munchi’s Ford Focus RS WRC.

Unfortunately severe weather left the crew and their recovery team stranded on the stage until 5am on Saturday morning with a massive blockage of spectator vehicles leaving them with no way out. With the car unable to get back to Parc Ferme in time the crew were therefore forced to retire from the event completely.

Villagra put in a huge effort to drive his Focus RS to the end of what has been a tremendously difficult event. The main issue for the Argentine was an exhaust problem caused by the rough terrain which sent smoke into his cockpit losing him vital seconds. A wise decision was made to back off to prevent too much smoke from entering the car and it paid off with the driver coming back from ninth to pick up sixth by rally’s end.

Rally Argentina 2008 has proved to be one of the most difficult WRC events in recent history with weather conditions throwing extreme tests at competitors. Rain played a huge role all three days along with thick fog which caused major lack of visibility on both days 1 and 3.

The event which began in Córdoba city centre to the delight of 40,000 rally fans covered a total of 348 kilometres over 21 tricky stages. Rally HQ was again based in the tourist town of Villa Carlos Paz to the west of Córdoba.

The next event for the Munchi’s Ford WRT is the all new Rally Jordan next month, 24-27 April. Both Pérez Companc and Villagra return again to score points for the team on the second event of their 10 event, 2008 campaign.

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Driver Federico Villagra said:
“It is a great feeling to achieve my best ever WRC finish and on my home event in Argentina. I live in Córdoba and the reception I have received this weekend from all the people has been incredible and has really made me drive better. For a long time I have been rallying in Argentina but I have never seen conditions quite like we have seen this weekend. The biggest challenge for this event was getting to the finish and I am glad we have done this. Things have gone really good for us this rally and despite the problems we had yesterday the team did a great job to fix everything and get us back out today. Now I am looking forward to Jordan, it is a new event for everyone so I think this will help us a lot.

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Driver Luis Pérez Companc said:
“I am disappointed to retire on my home event in front of all the Argentine fans but sometimes in rallying these things happen. On stage 8 we slid off the road in a very muddy section and did some damage to the front of the Focus. The car was not so bad but when the recovery team came to retrieve us there was no way out of the stage because many spectator cars were blocking the road because of the bad conditions. Had I got the car out in time we would have re-started but it is just one of those things that can happen. I was happy with my speed before we went off and I am feeling confident ahead of Jordan Rally which should have much better conditions to those we have had this weekend.”

Final results
1. Loeb / Elena 4h 05m 48.6s
2. Atkinson / Prevot +2m 33.2s
3. Sordo / Marti +4m 04.7s
4. Rautenbach / Senior +20m 03.5s
5. Hirvonen / Lehtinen +25m 15.3s
6. Villlagra / Perez Companc +27m 42.0s
7. Galli / Bernacchini +27m 51.8s
8. Aigner / Wicha +28m 59.3s
9. Beltran / Rojas +30m 04.9s
10. Ketomaa / Teiskonen +31m 52.6s

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