News round-up from MML Sports
September saw significant success for MML Sports Ltd, the Rugby-based motorsport and automotive consultancy. Not only did the company move from the location it had been based in for more than 20 years, in its previous incarnation as Ralliart Europe, to Daventry; it also won a double-head rallysprint event in Barbados with the Suzuki SX4 World Rally Car it developed and celebrated podiums in Belgium with the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC.
The SX4 WRC has been competing in the Caribbean since MML Sports completed its development, adapting technology and systems it already had considerable experience with, in 2010. Since then, the car has consistently demonstrated its pace and potential but this weekend marked the first clear indication of its capabilities.
Conditions for the event were among the worst seen in the area for some time - torrential rain meant that the gravel stage was waterlogged in numerous places. However, local driver Sean Gill was on form from the off, setting the fastest time on every run. By the end of the event, he was pronounced the winner, based on the fastest total time over three runs in one direction and three runs in reverse over the same course.
September was also a busy month for the two-car, father and son Mad Croc Rally Team, with Bert and Bob de Jong both driving Mitsubishi Lancer WRCs prepared by MML Sports.
The first of the pair’s outings was on the Tour of Flanders rally, based in Roeselare in Belgium. The entry for the event was huge and both knew they would not have an easy run.
However, there was early drama for Bert, as the steering rack on his Lancer WRC, which had been rebuilt by a local company prior to the event, failed, dropping him back down the order to 20th overall. Once the MML Sports technicians had rectified the problem, he went on a huge charge to regain as many positions as possible and by the end of the event, had clawed his way back to 8th overall, topping the event off with a stage win on the final test.
Bob, on the other hand, was a model of consistency, setting a string of top-six stage times early in the event before gradually improving his pace and culminating with a stage win on the 13th timed test of the event. By the time he reached the finish ramp, he was in third place, just a tantalising nine seconds off second place, after a thrilling battle with the Subaru WRCar of Jeroen Swaanen.
Two weeks later, the pair were in action again, this time on home ground as they took part in the Hellendoorn Rally, based in the town of the same name to the east of Amsterdam.
Once again, Bob demonstrated exceptional consistency and was rarely out of the top four on stage times throughout the 16-stage event. Bert lost time on the first stage of the event but mirrored his son’s performance, the pair typically setting adjacent stage times throughout the event. By the end of the rally, the honours went to Bob, finishing fourth overall with Bert right behind, in fifth.
Commenting, MML Sports Managing Director John Easton said: “It has been a frantic summer for us, as in addition to preparing for these events, we also moved from what was our base for more than 20 years to a more suitable facility. I am delighted and grateful to the staff for their efforts in not only making the move successful but at the same time, ensuring that we continue to support our customers and deliver success for them.
“I am particularly pleased that Sean has taken the win that we all knew was on the cards and was only a matter of time. He drove a careful and precise event in very difficult conditions and the SX4 WRC performed superbly and was perfectly suited to the conditions.
“I am also delighted that Bob and Bert both turned in some excellent performances.
“Bob in particular is doing very well, considering this is his first season in the Lancer WRC. A solid podium and only just off second place in Flanders was a superb result, considering the level of competition and I don’t think it will be long before he is standing on the top step.
“Bert’s early problems were a bit of a shame but I think he understands now why we recommend that we manage certain areas of the Lancer, as it is our speciality. However, once we rectified the steering issue, he was on excellent form and without the time loss, would have been right behind Bob.
“It was then very interesting to watch how Hellendoorn played out between them. The stage times were incredibly close and it looked as if it could go either way. As it transpired, Bob won out again and fourth and fifth is another excellent result, considering the entry of nine world rally cars, all of which were at least three years younger than the Mitsubishi.”
The company is also putting the finishing touches to its on-line shop, which will form part of its website and allow customers to purchase any of its products for the Group N and R4 Mitsubishi Lancer EvolutionX. All products will be available through the shop, from a complete turn-key Group N engine to a Ralliart radiator cap.