Munchi’s farewell 08 season in Sapporo
The Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team have completed their final event for the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship season with Federico Villagra/Jorge Pérez Companc finishing one spot outside a points’ finish in ninth place.

Unfortunately team-mates Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud had a rally to forget after retiring from the event when they had a small off this morning. The duo slid into a ditch and were literally stuck in the mud forcing them to retire.

Villagra got off to an unfortunate start when he lost over two and a half minutes with a broken drive shaft on stage 1 causing him to crawl through the next two stages with caution. Fortunately his Munchi’s team of technicians did a fantastic job in repairing his car changing both the drive shaft, and gearbox as a precaution, within the given service time limit.

Solberg’s rally began slowly on Friday as he battled to find the right setup to accompany his driving style on these all-new Japanese stages. Some changes to soften the setup of his Munchi’s Ford Focus RS WRC during service seemed to change the Norwegian’s pace and this eventuated into a fastest time on stage 14 on Saturday morning.

Unfortunately the Munchi’s man’s mission turned sour on Saturday when he picked up a puncture on stage 17 after a heavy impact with a rut just 10 kilometres from the end of the test. After driving on the puncture for seven kilometres the car’s rear left trailing arm then broke forcing the Norwegian to retire from the day at the stage end.

Day three was a similar story when 12 kilometres into the 27.76 kilometre Sikot 1 stage he misjudged the braking point for a medium left and careered straight into a ditch, in the treacherous conditions, becoming stuck and retiring from the event.

Rally Japan 2008 was a new location and new stages for everybody and this threw into the mix various factors which saw several top WRC crews fall by the wayside. The most significant factor was road condition which was amazingly rough and rutted thanks to torrential rain which hammered the Sapporo region especially over today’s final leg of competition.

This threw up the test to the Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyre which withheld the demanding conditions as only a limited amount of punctures were reported over the course of the rally.

It has been a fine year for the Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team which has seen some fantastic performances from Villagra, Solberg and team co-owner Luis Pérez Companc who made his final ever WRC appearance at Rally Finland behind the wheel of a Munchi’s Focus RS.

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Driver Federico Villagra said:
“It has been a good rally to finish our 2008 WRC season with but it is slightly disappointing we finished just one place away from the points. On stage 2 of the rally the car started moving around a lot and I knew there was a problem so I had to back off a lot not to crash the car off the road. We found a broken drive shaft at the end of the stage which meant I had to drive carefully through to service but unfortunately this meant more time lost. The team did a great job in service and they changed the drive shaft and the gear box without going more than the 30 minutes allowed for midday service. The conditions this weekend were some of the trickiest I have ever experienced and the ruts caused by the rain were unbelievable. These ruts also meant new small jumps on the stages which weren’t originally in our notes. We had a small intercom problem on Saturday when I found it hard to hear Jorge but apart from this everything else went well. I am happy with how the year has been and it has been great fun driving with the Munchi’s team and having Jorge as my co-driver.”

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“Everything felt wrong on Friday morning and I just couldn’t drive the car at all. In service we changed a lot of things and made the car a lot softer and this helped a lot but we only did one stage in the afternoon because of Francois’ accident so on Saturday I pushed hard to try and move up the leaderboard. The conditions were very slippery and the problem was the mud which caused big ruts especially during the second pass of stages. After service on Saturday we made a few small changes and things were feeling good but stage 17 was just crazy with the ruts and I got a puncture about 10 kilometres from the end of the stage. Then with just three kilometres to go we broke the rear suspension and had to retire at the end of the stage. Today it was just so slippery. Where we went off I was braking maybe 100 metres before the corner and we just went straight on at a medium left hander and got bogged in the mud. This just hasn’t been my rally.”

Final Leaderboard
1. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen 3h25m03.0sec
2. J-M Latvala/M Anttila +31.1s
3. S Loeb/D Elena +2m30.6s
4. C Atkinson/S Prevot +3m42.4s
5. P-G Andersson/J Andersson +5m12.9s
6. T Gardemeister/T Tuominen +6m09.4s
7. M Wilson/S Martin +7m05.3s
8. P Solberg/P Mills +13m19.9s
9. F Villagra/J Perez Companc +15m40.8s
10. D Sordo/M Marti +17m08.5s

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