Munchiís make point as Villagra takes eighth in Australia
Munchiís Ford WRT driver Federico Villagra scored his fifth points finish of the season taking an impressive eighth place overall at Repco Rally Australia, round 10 of the FIA World Rally Championship. This helps cement his place in the top ten of the Driversí Championship going into the final event of his eight-rally campaign in Spain next month.

Moving from its Western Australia base to the town of Kingscliff on the Aussie Gold Coast, the all-new Rally Australia had a host of challenges for the drivers over 344.72kms of competitive stages. From the six Super Special Stages on the Tarmac of Murwillumbah, to the slippery loose-gravel roads around the Tweed and Kyogle Shires of northern New South Wales, the rally was not lacking in excitement for the 40 crews taking part.

The experienced Argentine and co-driver Jorge Perez Companc produced a steady and consistent performance over the energy-sapping 35-stage rally, concentrating on matching themselves against the other Ford Focus RS WRCs of Stobart VK M-Sport Ford drivers Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg.

After the high-octane tour of the town of Murwillumbah on Thursday night where the rally kicked off with two Tarmac Super Special Stages, the real action began on Friday morning on the high-speed gravel roads to the west of Rally HQ in Kingscliff.

Villagra worked on the set-up of his car over the morning stages to allow him maximum stability on the high-speed tests. He remained in his overnight position of eighth place but stayed in touch with Wilson and Solberg just ahead. During the midday service on Day 1 he made changes to the springs and differential map which helped him to push in some of the repeat passes of the stages.

While other crews struggled with the wet and slippery road surface caused by overnight rain on Day 2, Villagra concentrated on staying on the road and getting the best out of his car in the tricky conditions. At the end of the second day he had maintained his place in the points and, lying just over a minute behind young-gun Wilson, was in a position to push on the final morning to improve his overall standing.

The seven-time Argentine champion was not alone in struggling to find his rhythm on Sunday morning as the loose-gravel surface of the stages around the town of Kyogle made it hard to find grip. Pacenote accuracy was essential throughout the rally due to its brand new format, but Villagra struggled with his notes on the first loop of stages.

Having made some improvements he pushed hard on the second pass, spurred on by the problems of Solberg just ahead of him and on SS33 Gondwana, Villagra moved up to seventh place as Solberg spun his car losing valuable time. The pair battled for seventh place on the final and longest stage of the rally SS35 Repco but it was the Norwegian who eventually came out on top, posting an extremely impressive time which saw him move ahead.

With 15 points from the seven events that he has contested this season, Villagra is already sure of taking his best ever finish in the FIA World Rally Championship but, with two fourth-place finishes already under his belt this year, he will be looking to emulate that in his final event of the year in Spain.

Other Rally News
Reigning champion Sebastien Loeb closed BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Mikko Hirvonenís lead at the top of the driversí standings to just one point after taking victory in Australia. Starting the final day in third place, Loeb used the advantage of the cleaned roads to pull ahead of the Finn and build a 12.5 second by the end of the day.

Loebís team mate Dani Sordo finished third while Sebastien Ogier rounded off a strong day for the Citroen camp. The Citroen Junior driver produced an impressive performance to finish fourth ahead of BP Ford Abu Dhabiís Jari-Matti Latvala who lost time with a puncture on Sunday morningís stages.

Meanwhile Stobart VK M-Sport Fordís Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg both overcame final-day dramas to score a double-points finish for the team in sixth and seventh place.

Munchiís Ford WRT driver Federico Villagra said:
ďWe have had a good weekend and it has been a great rally, but it has also been very difficult. The first pass was very slippery and it was difficult to find traction; but when we made some changes to the diff map we found some really positive improvements to the grip. Itís really been a problem-free run for us and it has enabled me to concentrate on finding the areas where I can be faster.

ďWe tried to push a bit more on the second pass and that worked well and when we did push more our times were actually quite good; we were even able to compare some stages closely to Matthew and Henning.Ē

Final Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena (FRA) CitroŽn C4 2h52m54.0s
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS +12.5s
3. D Sordo/M Marti (ESP) CitroŽn C4 +17.1s
4. S Ogier/J Ingrassia (FRA) CitroŽn C4 +1m35.8s
5. J-M Latvala/M Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS +2m04.5s
6. M Wilson/S Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS +5m38.8s
7. H Solberg/C Menkerud (NOR) Ford Focus RS +7m30.3s
8. F Villagra/J Perez Companc (ARG) Ford Focus RS +7m51.9s

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