Munchiís make speedy start to season in Cyprus
The Munchiís Ford World Rally Team made their mark on the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship as they picked up both driver and manufacturer points in their first outing of the season with Federico Villagra/Jorge Perez Companc finishing in an impressive seventh place in the Cyprus Rally.

The team, which is taking 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, got their campaign off to a great start as Villagra moved his way steadily through the field over the three days of the rally to finish inside the points.

After the ceremonial start, which was attended by thousands of fans in Limassol on Thursday, Villagra took Fridayís opening stages of the rally at a relatively steady pace. With no pre-rally testing of the gravel tyres on tarmac Villagra did well to stay in contention with the rest of the field.

He didnít encounter any major problems and ended day one in an encouraging 10th place overall but with work to do if he and the team were to earn any points.

The seven-time Argentine champion was more at home on the gravel stages of day two and held his own on the exceptionally muddy morning stages that had been affected by heavy overnight rain moving up the field as other drivers faltered in the slippery conditions.

Villagra coped well with the changing conditions as the surface became drier and looser in the afternoon and despite losing his front bumper during the last stage of day two as it got caught in a dip in the road he ended the day in ninth place with the goal of chasing a top-eight finish on the final day.

The final day of the rally threw up some minor problems for Villagra who had to deal with a handbrake problem on the longest stage of the rally, the 40 kilometre SS13 Anadiou, which left him just outside the top 10 on that stage.

Despite those problems at the end of a difficult and gruelling race, he finished the rally on a positive note, taking eighth place on the final stage which moved him up to seventh overall.

With little testing time under their belts this rally provided the team with a chance to work on the set-up of the car before moving on to Rally Portugal next month. The points haul represents an excellent start to the season for Villagra, who finished last seasonís campaign with nine points in the driver standings, and an equally good beginning to the season for the Munchiís team who register their first manufacturer points of the year.

Munchiís Ford World Rally Team driver Federico Villagra said:
ďIt has been a great weekend and a great start to the championship campaign for us. It is really good to have scored both driver and manufacturer points in our first race of the season. It was a very difficult rally and I had to take it carefully on the muddy sections. We had a slight problem with the handbrake on the long stage today which made it very hard. Generally it has been a positive weekend for us and we had some good splits on some stages. The team has done a good job and helped us make some adjustments to the suspension and by the time we finished the car was feeling really good which is very positive ahead of Portugal next month.Ē

Final Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena (FRA) CitroŽn C4 4h50m34.7s

2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS +27.2s

3. P Solberg/P Mills (NOR) CitroŽn Xsara +1m49.4s

4. D Sordo/M Marti (ESP) CitroŽn C4 +2m26.3s

5. M Wilson/S Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS +6m41.0s

6. C Rautenbach/D Barritt (ZW) CitroŽn C4 +11m11.9s
7. F Villagra/J Perez Companc (ARG) Ford Focus RS +13m18.5s

8. K Al Qassimi/M Orr (UAE) Ford Focus RS +13m44.1s

9. P Sandell/E Axelsson (SWE) Skoda Fabia +19.36.6

10. A Arujo/R Miguel (POR) Mitusbishi Lancer +19.54.9

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