Energetic Argentine fans to boost Munchiís hopes on home event
Local hero Federico Villagra returns home next weekend to tackle round five of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Argentina, in front of thousands of passionate fans in Cordoba. Villagra is currently lying eighth in the driversí championship after taking another notable points finish in Portugal and is looking to keep up his perfect start to the season as the WRC faces its first long-haul event of the year.

Villagra scored his best ever WRC finish in his home rally last year where he finished in sixth place despite experiencing exhaust problems on the last day of the rally that lost him valuable time. The seven-time Argentine champion has had a fantastic start to his eight-rally 2009 WRC campaign scoring points with two seventh-place finishes in both Cyprus and Portugal.

The driver known as the Coyote will thrill local fans in the Cordoba Stadium on Thursday evening as they get to cheer on one of their own in the opening Super Special stage, one of three visits over the weekend to the stadium and newly designed 2.4km course. Villagra has had great success in Super Special stages in the past, winning three at Rally Japan in 2006 and will be hoping to give his supporters something to celebrate in Cordoba. Villagra will be joined again by regular co-driver, and Munchiís Team owner, Jorge Perez Companc after he missed the last event in Portugal.

Few of the 58 drivers entered in Rally Argentina will be as familiar with the stages and the testing conditions that the crews will face as Villagra. The rally is based in his home town of Villa Carlos Paz and as recently as February he finished second in the Mina Clavero Rally an area that Rally Argentina will visit on day two of the event. It also holds special memories for Munchiís team manager Martin Christie who won the 1995 rally co-driving for Jorge Recalde.

This yearís edition sees some significant changes from 2008. As well as moving the date of the rally on a month in the calendar from the previous running when the race was blighted by heavy rainfall, the organisers have chosen to use a more compact route with stages all taking place to the north and west of the Service Park in Villa Carlos Paz. The loop to the south which featured the famous Santa Rosa de Calamuchita water splash is not included this year.

After the opening Super Special stage on Thursday night day one will see the crews head north into the hills where they will face 142.16kms of stages including the longest of the rally the 22.95km Capilla del Monte. Road conditions are expected to be changeable with some stages featuring loose, sandy surfaces while others consist of more solid gravel and larger rocks which have the potential to damage the cars, but drivers should be familiar with the territory as the first dayís stages remain largely unchanged from last year.Saturday highlights include some of Rally Argentinaís most emblematic stages including Mina Clavero and El Condor. Visibility could be an issue for the crews as they climb to over 2000 metres driving through cloud and fog and accurate pacenotes will be essential. Day three takes the drivers out on four short stages close to Villa Carlos Paz before returning for a final run around the Cordoba Stadium.

Munchiís Ford WRT driver Federico Villagra said:
ďThis is the event in the calendar that I always look forward to. Competing all around the world is a fantastic experience but itís always a special feeling when I return to Argentina for my home WRC round. The fans here are incredible and Iím hoping to use that energy to push for my best result of the season in front of them. The stages are pretty similar to previous years and I have a good knowledge of the roads and the conditions we will encounter. The plan for day one is to push as hard as I can and then we will assess the situation and our position. But for sure I will be trying my best here, I really want to go have a good rally, bring home some more points and have a fantastic result for all the Argentine fans out there who will be cheering me on the stages.Ē

Event Information
Date: 23-26 April 2009
Round: 5 of 12 FIA World Rally Championship
Central Service Park: Villa Carlos Paz
Stage surface: Gravel
Total stage distance: 331.80km
Number of stages: 23
Longest stage: 22.95km (SS4/SS7 Capilla del Monte)
Highest elevation on stage: 2122 metres (SS12/SS16 El Condor)

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