Munchiís kick off WRC season with unique Cypriot adventure
Munchiís Ford World Rally team will make its season debut at the Cyprus Rally the first of eight rounds of the WRC that it will tackle this season with driver Federico Villagra leading the charge.

The team has taken advantage of new FIA regulations which permit the registration of Manufacturer Teams running single cars competing on a minimum of eight events to enter the race for the manufacturer championship.

Seven-time Argentine Rally Champion Villagra has only raced once in Rally Cyprus in the past finishing 27th in 2005 but since linking up with the Munchiís Ford World Rally team in 2007 he has successfully made an impact on the WRC finishing 14th in the driver standings in 2008 thanks to sixth-place finishes in Argentina and Jordan.

Last month Villagra missed out on victory at the Rally Mina Clavero, the first round of the Argentine national championships, by 2.4 seconds after sustaining damage to his rear suspension just two kilometres from the end of the event and will be hoping to avoid a similar fate in the testing conditions of Cyprus.

After a two-year absence the Cyprus Rally is returning to the WRC calendar with a challenging new format that will see drivers tackling two different surfaces in one rally. All stages on the first day will take place on asphalt before the action moves to gravel for the second and third days of the event.

As well as the unique test of taking on a multi-surface race which represents a step into the unknown for all of the teams, the drivers could spend over four hours in the car with average speeds on the 332 kilometre rally expected to be around half those posted during Rally Norway last month.

Rally Cyprus will also have some of the longest stages of the season with the longest stage on day three being over 40 kilometres and several stages throughout the event longer than 30 kilometres testing the driversí physical and mental fitness to the limit.

The Munchiís Ford World Rally Team have spent two days testing their Ford Focus RS WRC car in Cumbria in preparation for the race and will use the hard compound Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyre for all three days in Cyprus.

In addition to a new format for the race, rally organisers have created a new Service Park on the seafront in Limassol on the islandís south coast which will provide more space and accessibility than in previous years.

The race gets underway with a ceremonial start in conjunction with a pop concert expected to attract a large number of spectators on Thursday evening before the real action begins on Friday with the first stage starting in Pano Panagia to the north west of Limassol for a challenging 30 kilometre opener.

Day two will see the drivers head straight north of the start to the mountainous Troodos region before moving back to Pano Panagia on Sunday for the rally's longest stage, the 40.54 kilometre Anadiou stage 13 in the western Paphos district of the island.

Munchiís Ford World Rally Team Driver Federico Villagra said:
ďI'm very excited to be back racing in the WRC. It feels like it has been a long time since my last event last season. It is great to be taking part in eight rounds of the WRC this season and I'm very happy to be back racing with Jorge. We have had a really good test and I am looking forward to the rally. Cyprus is going to be very interesting. The stages are very long and it is going to be a new experience driving on different surfaces in the same rally. I think it is also going to be very hard on the brakes and it will be tough mentally and physically.Ē

Event Information
Date: 13 Ė 15 March 2009
Round: 3 of 12, FIA World Rally Championship
Based: Limassol, Cyprus
Total distance: 332.07 km
Stage surface: asphalt/gravel
Number of stages: 14
Longest stage: SS13 Anadiou Ė 40.54 km
Central Service Park: Germasogeia, Limassol
Ceremonial Start: Palais des Sports, Limassol
Remote service: Anadiou Dam, Day 3 after SS12 Foini

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