Munchi’s Team Prosper in Portugal
The Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team made steady progress in the sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) this weekend finishing eighth overall and successfully securing their fifth consecutive points finish in the 44th edition of the Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

Federico Villagra and co-driver, Jorge Pérez Companc, got off to a flying start on Thursday evening as they finished the opening tarmac Super Special Stage second-fastest. Constructed in 2004, huge crowds flocked to watch the WRC drivers go head to head round the spectacular flood-lit 2.03km speed test. The Argentinean duo manipulated the sweeping hairpin bends and tight corners perfectly and were just 0.1 seconds off claiming the fastest time in the short opening stage.

Mild weather in the Algarve greeted 74 starting entries for the first full day of WRC action where the Argentinean rally duo tackled 130.61km of competitive distance over 6 testing stages in their Ford Focus RS WRC. Temperatures topped late twenties throughout the event and made road conditions on the tests very dry with lots of dust and fast, hard-packed surfaces.

The main difference from 2009 was the Friday’s opening Santa Clara stage (SS2 and SS6), which was run in reverse. Villagra struggled in this opening 22.72km stage and his shaky start knocked him from second position overall down into twelfth. However, the Munchi’s driver found his rhythm in SS3, moving up a position and pulling into the midday service in eleventh position overall, just 8.8 seconds behind Kimi Raikkonen.

Villagra encountered no major difficulties when tackling the repeat loop on Friday and finished the day in eleventh position overall. The gap between Villagra and Raikkonen, however, had extended to 28.8 seconds but would still provide an exciting battle between the two WRC drivers in Saturday’s tests.

Saturday was the longest of the rally and comprised of 135.10km of competitive distance covering six gravel stages north of the service park, including a repeat loop of the rally’s longest stage, 26.20km Almodovar (SS8 and SS11), which kicked off the morning and afternoon loop. Villagra took an early advantage of Nasser Al Attiyah who stopped in SS9 and the rally duo moved up into tenth position.

In the repeat afternoon loop, Villagra encountered no major problems but Al Attiyal was close on Villagra’s tail throughout and, after producing an extremely fast stage time in SS13, the two drivers finished in joint tenth position at the end of Saturday’s afternoon loop. Villagra and Al Attiyal had also closed the gap on Raikonnen and just 25.4 seconds separated Villagra and Al Attiyal from snatching ninth position from the former Formula One driver.

The final day of Rally de Portugal featured four all-gravel stages, with the only difference to last year’s route being on the Felizes 21.28km stage (SS14 and SS16) which has a new 3.11km finish. The rally finished with another stage round the 2.03km tarmac stage round the Algarve Stadium. Villagra produced two top ten stage times in SS14 and SS15 and took advantage of Stobart M-Sport Ford’s Henning Solberg retiring in SS15 which moved him inside the top ten and into ninth position.

Just 12.2 seconds separated Raikkonen and Villagra as they entered the final three stages and a close battle for eighth position ensued. Villagra finished SS16 seventh-fastest and his quick time meant Villagra was pushed up into eighth position overall. The Munchi’s team finished on a high and produced the fastest stage time by 0.7 seconds in the final Super Special Stage at the end of an action-packed Rally de Portugal.

The Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team leave the sixth round of the WRC with a fifth consecutive points finish and enhance its position in the championship table.

Munchi’s Ford WRT driver Federico Villagra said:
“This was a good rally for me and I really enjoyed the Super Special. It was hard to find the right speed at the start and I was very cautious in the beginning. The stages here in Portugal were not easy and there are some very technical sections that I wasn’t sure how to manage. I needed to trust my pacenotes more but I was feeling much more confident on Saturday and Sunday, setting much faster times. I am happy that I caught up on the drivers who were beating my times on Friday and Saturday and look forward to my next WRC round.”

Final Leaderboard
1. S Ogier/J Ingrassa FRA Citroen C4 3hr 51min 16.1sec
2. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen C4 3hr 52min 24.0sec
3. D Sordo/M Marti ESP Citroen C4 3hr 52min 33.7sec
4. P Solberg/P Mills NOR Citreon C4 3hr 52min 48.1sec
5. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS 3hr 52min 51.8sec
6. M Wilson/S Martin GBR Ford Focus RS 3hr 58min 26.2sec
7. M Østberg/J Andersson NOR Subaru Impreza 3hr 58 min 44.4sec
8. F Villagra/J Campanc ARG Ford Focus RS 4hr 01min 52.2sec
9. K Al Qassimi/M Orr UAE Citroen C4 4hr 02min 11.9sec
10. K Räikkönen/K Lindström FIN Citroen C4 4hr 02min 50.4sec

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