Catalunya - Munchi's Ford World Rally Team - Day Three
A trouble-free RallyCatalunya-Rally de España has seen both crews in the Munchi's Ford World Rally Team finish inside the top 12 on this 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud
topped the team's time sheets finishing the event in 11th position while Federico Villagra/Jorge Pérez Companc finished one place back in 12th on just their second-ever asphalt event.
Rally Catalunya was the first and only Tarmac round of the Munchi's Ford WRT's ten-event 2008 campaign and while both drivers finished just outside the points, the team still maintains its two-point advantage over Suzuki in the Manufacturers' Championship.
Solberg began cautiously on Friday morning as he experimented with the setup of his Munchi's Ford Focus RS WRC07 to try and find the correct balance and subsequent pace on the sealed surface.
The Norwegian's search for speed paid off by Sunday's stages as he began to set more competitive times and secured his 11th position after a weekend-long battle with teammate Villagra. Despite not posting any driver points Solberg still remains seventh in the WRC drivers' classification.
Villagra had a positive Rally Catalunya on just his second-ever tarmac round in the World Championship.
Driving for the first time on the Pirelli PZero asphalt tyre it was a steep learning curve for the Argentine who adapted both well and quickly as he continues to gain maximum experience of top-level tarmac rallying.
The only issue for "Coyote" was, in places, a lack of rhythm between his driving and the pacenotes made during recce earlier this week. With the high-speed, racing-circuit-like nature of the Spanish stages, pacenote precision is a key ingredient in finding the confidence to go flat out on these roads.
The event ran an identical layout on all three days with a repeat loop of three stages broken up by a midday service. Saturday played host to the longest stage of the event when crews passed over the monster 38.27 kilometre El Priorat/La Ribera d'Ebre test.
Rally Catalunya was seen as another successful event with tens of thousands flocking to Costa Daurada creating the perfect atmosphere for this fast-paced, action-packed asphalt event based in the tourist town of Salou.
The next event for the Munchi's Ford squad is also its final round of the year and sees Solberg again join the team for Rally Japan next month.
"I came here knowing I had to drive to the conditions and learn as much as possible and that's what I did. We are not able to push from the start as I need to have a good feeling with the car and with no tarmac testing before the rally, this was always going to take some time. We found a really positive diff setting on Saturday which let me settle down and concentrate on perfecting my driving style. But it's difficult here with all the cuts and gravel on the stages so it's important not to get carried away."
"With Corsica just a few days away we needed to keep the car undamaged and the setting we have should hopefully work in Corsica and help us to be faster from the start of the rally. I have also been doing some work on my pacenotes here to help me with faster lines on tarmac."
"I don't have much experience on this surface so the rally was always going to be a big learning experience for me. The test before the event was a huge benefit and we got some good information from there. But we stuck to the game plan, which was to try and get to the finish with no problems, and this was definitely the correct decision."
"We changed the rear anti-roll bar on Saturday and that helped a lot in making the car more stable and precise as one of the problems we had early in the rally was some understeer. This has been a good event and a positive experience for me and we know a lot more about this rally and the conditions."