Sardinia - Munchi's Ford World Rally Team - Preview
Munchi's Ford World Rally Team driver Federico Villagra is aiming to continue his charge up the driver standings as the FIA World Rally Championship arrives in Sardinia next week for round six of the 2009 championship,
Rally d'Italia Sardegna.
Villagra scored a stunning fourth place earlier this month at his home event of Rally Argentina and has already equalled his points tally for last season, just three events into his eight-rally campaign as the Munchi's team also make their mark on the manufacturer championship.
The seven-time Argentine rally champion made his Munchi's Ford debut at Rally d'Italia Sardegna two years ago, so it is an event that holds special memories for him, but in two visits to the Mediterranean island he has yet to finish in the points and will be looking to rectify that this year.
After performing so well in South America, Villagra and co-driver Jorge Perez Companc are hopeful that they can achieve their fourth consecutive points finish of the season as they travel back to Europe where they will be among 60 entrants facing the unique challenges that Sardinia has to offer.
Following Thursday night's ceremonial start at Olbia Town Hall, a new venue for the start of this year's Rally d'Italia Sardenga, the 347.12kms of stages get underway on Friday morning to the southwest of the central Service Park.
Day One features many stages that will be familiar to the drivers from previous editions of the rally. The loose, sandy surface means that the early starters could be slowed as they sweep the roads for the crews behind them.
The roads are rocky and prone to becoming rutted on the second pass so this will provide an extra challenge for the drivers and the Pirelli Scorpion control tyres.
Day Two sees the inclusion of two new stages - Sa Linea and Fiorentni - through the forest roads in the centre of the island with the famous Monte Lerno making up the numbers in the three-stage loop through which the drivers will pass twice.
As well as being the longest stage of the rally at 29.15kms, Monte Lerno is sure to draw huge crowds of fans to view one of the most famous, and spectacular, jumps on this season's rally calendar.
On the final day the drivers will complete five short stages covering just 86.18kms as they head north towards the glittering Costa Smeralda and on to the finish at the exclusive coastal resort of Porto Cervo, where they will be greeted by more eager fans and the yacht owners moored in the marina.
Munchi's Ford are making their own waves in the manufacturer championship and have the Citroen Junior team in their sights. Lying just one point behind them in fifth place gives Villagra an extra incentive to score another good finish in his Ford Focus RS WRC in Sardinia.
"Rally Sardinia is an important rally for me because it is the place that I made my debut for the Munchi's team," said Villagra. "We had a great drive and a fantastic result in Argentina. It was an amazing atmosphere with all of the local fans and I really enjoyed it, but I am looking forward to returning to Europe and trying to maintain the good start that I've had to this season."
"Sardinia is a difficult rally, there are lots of rocks on the road and it is important to avoid those and it's important to have a good set of pacenotes as there are many fast, narrow sections," he explained. "It's a balance between maintaining a good speed and staying safe."
"Hopefully our reliability will continue and I can score more points for the team," Villagra anticipated.