Manuel Villa

Villa, a passionate rally and Trofeo driver

There are drivers who compete just for the love of doing it. They are not concerned about the car they drive or the surface. Manuel Villa is one such driver. Born in Albenga and having started out in karts, he later moved on to the Fiat 500, where he placed second in the Trofeo, and then claimed the Italian Rally Championship at the wheel of a Lancia Delta Integrale. He has rallying in his heart, soul and in his feet. It is part of him. We met Villa at the end of a qualifying session conditioned by heavy rain, one that he placed fifth in.

Can you sum up this first session?
“Personally I would have preferred the rain to have fallen yesterday so that I could have used my rallying experience: in the wet I am also competitive on the track. I have to admit though, that I have never driven such a powerful car on such a tricky and complex circuit. It was hard out there and I wasn’t as quick as I hoped. So, hats off to Casé because he really was fast. If the conditions stay the same in the second session, I will try to kick on because the gap between me and top spot is a big one”.


We couldn’t help noticing an unusual sticker on your Trofeo…
“True: I wanted to have ‘Go Robert’ on the car, dedicated to Kubica. I went to visit the Polish star in the clinic in Pietra Ligure as it is near where I live and, above all, because I had met him at a few rallying events in which he had appeared. Now that he has left the clinic I want to see him behind the wheel as soon as possible, if not in Formula 1 then in a race car of any type”.


What tactics does a rally driver adopt for going quick on the track? How does your driving style change?
“Obviously, you have to drive cleaner than in rallying. Also, we have to remember a significant difference that makes our life a lot easier in special events: the hand brake lever.

However, I have to say that after driving on the track, I have also managed to improve my rallying performances. In the wet, drivers with rallying backgrounds, where we often drive in low-grip conditions, have the edge.


Last year you drove the two races at Monza. Do you hope to race in more this time round?
“I have confirmed that I will take part in the first three races and, after that, it all depends on my position in the standings. I will have to try to convince the sponsors to back me for all eight races…”


You are a fan of the Trofeo. Why did you choose this single-make series in particular?
“I started racing in the Trofeo in 2005 and 2006. Since then, I have enjoyed the format where all the drivers are on the same level and because we don’t have to worry about the organisation and logistics. Everything runs like clockwork and the medical facilities on hand are first-rate. Added to this is the draw of the marque and the chance to compete against professional drivers, some of whom have appeared in Formula 1. All these factors make the championship unique. In other categories it is difficult to give someone making his/her debut the opportunity to race against professionals. I remember the times when I had fun competing against Ivan Capelli, Johnny Herbert and Fabrizio De Simone…”.


2005, 2010, 2011. Three season, three different cars. Which features struck you most?
“This year’s car is an evolution of the one I drove in 2010, but the changes are slight. It is more of a ‘racer’ while the roadgoing origins of the car were more apparent last year. Saying this, I think that the brakes on the 2005 version provided more ‘feeling’ and, in emergencies, you could hit the brakes and depend on the ABS. This new car calls for more care when braking. Overall, with a few modifications, there is the basis for a solid GT. The lap times between this car and ones created for the category demonstrate this”.


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