Catalunya - Munchi's Ford WRT - Preview
This week the Munchi's Ford World Rally Team have their first attempt at an all-asphalt event as the FIA World Rally Championship's twelfth round gets underway in Spain for Rally RACC Catalunya Costa Daurada.
While this is the
first time both Luis Perez Companc/Jose Maria Volta and Federico Villagra/Jorge Perez Companc have competed in Spain, it's certainly not without experience.
Building up to the event, both crews have spent time in their Munchi's Ford Focus RS WRC06 cars with a two-day test in the country in June. The pair will also be undertaking a small 50-kilometre test on Monday in the north of the country.
First run in the WRC in 1991, Rally Catalunya is well known for producing some of the fastest tarmac stages in the championship. This year with 367 kilometres of competitive stage distance, battles will be sure to emerge from start to finish as 23 WRC crews set out to tackle this third tarmac rally of the year.
Set in the north eastern Catalunya region just outside of Barcelona, the event runs over a smooth surface which can often be unsettling to drivers when surrounding gravel is dragged onto the road by front-running competitors.
Weather forecasts suggest conditions could, like last year, stay dry with temperatures averaging around the 20 degrees Celsius mark.
Last year Rally Catalunya was a dry affair which delighted crews and saw a very competitive spread across the leaderboard.
For Companc this will be his first-ever attempt at an asphalt rally since entering the sport back in 1998. The Argentine native has shown impressive form this year as he continues to learn on a gravel surface but now a new challenge lies ahead and the 35-year-old is relishing the opportunity to see what the Focus RS can do on the sealed surface.
Recently, team-mate Villagra won the seventh round of his national Argentine Rally Championship, Rally de Mina Clavero, an event he has won three times in the past. This now puts the 'Coyote' 19.5 points clear in the championship with three rounds remaining – a confidence booster which he will take with him into this week's WRC Rally Catalunya.
With both drivers inexperienced on asphalt, the main aim for the team is to safely bring home both Focus RS cars to gain the maximum amount of tarmac mileage in aid of future attempts at sealed surface rallying.
Luis Perez Companc:
"This rally will be difficult as it is going to be a totally new experience for me as I have never driven competitively on asphalt before. We have tested for two days on asphalt in Spain and the feeling is very different to the gravel. It took me a while to get used to this new sensation but slowly I started to make some progress and found how to drive the car better. It reacts totally different to when you drive it on gravel and I think it will take me some time, once the rally starts, to adjust. This is my first time on this rally and to try and help I have been watching some videos of last year's edition of the rally just to get an idea of what the roads look like and what type of conditions I will be facing."
"My aim here is to finish the rally and the best way to do that is to keep the car on the road, I need to gain as much experience as possible. It is going to be complicated to write good pacenotes because I don't know the exact limit of the car's grip on asphalt and also it is not going to be easy to know which are the corners you can cut and the ones you can't. I also know that I need to be careful on the first pass to realise the corners that will have gravel dragged onto the road from the other drivers cutting corners."
"I am hoping for another good learning experience with the car in Spain. I have only just learnt how to drive the car on gravel and now I have to start again on asphalt. I am under no illusions and know it will be a hard rally but I'm really looking forward to next week. We had a good test session earlier in the year and we will also have a few runs in the car on Monday afternoon. The testing is very important and it has given me a good feeling to start the rally. We were able to try different settings and basically just get used to the new surface."
"I am hoping to complete all of the stages and try and finish the rally without any problems as this will give me the maximum experience for the next asphalt rally. But I also know it won't be easy. I am not sure of the exact lines and the exact speeds that we can push for on this rally. The cuts on the corners will also be difficult and we need to be wary of the gravel. I will plan to start off at a safe pace and try to get faster as the rally goes on."
Munchi's Ford WRT