We all know just how difficult it is to get to grips with a new car, goodness knows how many things I bashed into when I got my new wheels last winter – I told my mum it was the ice’s fault – but Federico Villagra put us all to shame with his impressive driving at this weekend’s RACC-Rally de España.
Grappling with the challenges of a new co-driver, a car he’d not driven for four months, and a volcano in southern Chile interfering with his travel plans, thus meaning he missed out on Tuesday’s reconnaissance, Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team driver finished in a impressive 16th place overall in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Luckily, the FIA granted the waiver allowing Villagra and co-driver Diego Curletto to recce two new stages (SS1 & SS4 Pesells and SS3 & SS6 Les Garrigues) in addition to some of the stages already scheduled for Wednesday.
Federico Villagra said: “It has been a difficult weekend but I am very happy to have made it over to Spain after the nightmare we had trying to get here earlier in the week! It was disappointing to miss the recce on Tuesday but at least we got to do some of Wednesday plus the organisers allowed us to drive Friday’s new stages. It’s always a big confidence boost doing the recce as it allows you to get to grips with the roads but I am lucky in some ways as it is an event I have done four times before so I already remembered some of the roads.
This weekend marked the first time since Greece that Villagra has driven the Ford Fiesta RS, and WRC Spain also marked the first time Villagra has piloted the Fiesta RS WRC in a lower, more aggressive asphalt specification. Talk about being thrown back in at the deep end.
Despite all the drama, the South American driver went onto set the second-fastest time at Thursday’s Shakedown. However, Friday’s unique mix of asphalt and gravel stages, proved troublesome for Villagra, who struggled with brakes for the opening 80.18 km loop.
Friday evening’s 75 minute flexi service saw Villagra’s service team transform the Ford Fiesta RS WRC from a gravel set-up into full asphalt specification in order to tackle the remaining two days of competition which was set on Tarmac. Saturday posed no major problems for Villagra who improved his times to sit 19th at the end of Stage 12.
Villagra said: “On Friday we were more cautious on the first run so we could make changes to the pacenotes before we pushed on the afternoon’s repeat leg. Then we completely lost our brakes so it was a difficult day.”
The final day of Rally de España saw the Munchi’s Ford driver move further up the leaderboard to finish the end of his seventh WRC event of 2011 16th overall. He said; “Saturday and Sunday has gone much better but it has taken a bit of time getting used to driving the car in a different specification.”
Villagra will now return to his native homeland where he will concentrate on the final two rounds of the Argentine Rally Championship (ARC) which he leads by an incredible 125 points. With such a significant lead, it is expected that Villagra will be crowned the Argentine Rally Champion for the tenth time in December.
He concluded: “I have enjoyed the challenge this weekend and now I will return home to concentrate on my championship back in Argentina.”