It was an unfortunate end for Luis Pérez Companc/José María Volta after retiring on their final ever WRC event together at this weekend’s Neste Oil Rally Finland; but the pair will leave the championship knowing their illustrious careers have been filled with fond memories.
Team-mates Federico Villagra/Jorge Pérez Companc were also unable to capitalise on a Finnish result after leaving the road 200 metres from the end of stage 20 yesterday. In the incident their Munchi’s Ford Focus RS WRC07 caught fire but the pair were fortunate enough to quickly extinguish the flames and were unhurt during the accident. The damage to the car however meant they were unable to continue today.
Luis Pérez Companc was looking towards posting a solid top-10 finish until a collision with a large rock in stage 21. After finishing the stage, Volta began complaining of pain in his ribs and was taken by helicopter to Central Finland Health Care hospital in Jyväskylä for precautionary checks. He was released on Saturday evening with no broken bones but just some muscular soreness.
Apart from the collision, which caused some damage to the co-drivers side of Pérez Companc’s Munchi’s Focus RS, it was a fairly smooth and relaxed run. The only other minor issue was an intercom problem on Friday’s opening day.
Villagra’s accident occurred on the second to last corner of the 21.13 kilometre Juupajoki test yesterday when he left the road and rolled in front of a crowded spectator area. The roll caused a small fire but quick initiative by the crew saw them distinguish the flames almost instantly.
Rally Finland has again proved to be one of the most spectacular events on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar with massive crowds flocking to its base in Jyväskylä for this ninth round of the 2008 season.
In total 24 special stages took crews over 340.42 kilometres of competitive distance which included two passes over the spectator-friendly Killeri super special on Thursday and Friday. Weather conditions varied over the course of the rally with rain early on Friday morning which blew through to clear blue skies come Sunday.
With Pérez Companc bidding farewell to the WRC the next event for the Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team sees them head to Repco Rally New Zealand where Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud will join the team as the second nominated point scoring crew.
Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Driver Luis Pérez Companc said:
“It hasn’t been the perfect end to my rally career and for sure we would have liked to get to the end of my last rally. But we are in Finland, it is a very special place and as you can see, it can catch out any driver. With the accident we ran wide on a corner into the ditch and hit a boulder very hard on José’s side. I could hear that he was winded and breathing heavily and he waved to continue to the end of the stage. Then the pain got worse and we stopped after the finish as it was too much for José to continue. It was a surprise accident as the rally was going very well for us, we didn’t expect to have been setting those times and it all seemed to be under control.
“When I look back on my career I would say after my home event of Rally Argentina then this event in Finland is my favourite rally. Argentina is special because of all the local fans cheering me on and that really is a great feeling; myself and José must thank them all for their wonderful support over the years. I also have great memories of Rally Japan last year when we were fighting with Matthew for fourth position, I had a very inspiring drive and was able to push hard and drive very near to my limit without making any mistakes; that really was my best result.
“In 2004 when we were racing in the WRC I very nearly retired from the sport. But I spoke with Malcolm and saw how the M-Sport team worked and this really changed my mind. We just want to thank him, Ford and all the team at M-Sport for some wonderful times together and putting so much effort in to help the Munchi’s team. I can say that we really will miss them all.”
Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Driver Federico Villagra said:
“We had a really strange accident near the end of stage 20. We slid wide into the ditch and rolled very slowly along the road. The car wasn’t very badly damaged but it caught fire quickly which we managed to put out. It’s a shame about this problem as we were going well and getting used to the very fast roads here and this was my first accident for many years. Finland is always a very difficult event, especially getting used to the high speeds, but we made a big improvement in our times from last year and for sure I can take these positives to our next rally in New Zealand; also on fast gravel.”
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