MML Sports will be heading for Latvia next week, as the company debuts its Mitsubishi Lancer EvolutionX in R4 specification on the Talsi Rally, the third round of the national championship. The car will be driven by Jari Ketomaa and the company hopes the experienced Finn will be able to demonstrate the advantages offered by this latest specification from MML Sports.
The company has a history of debuting its latest developments in the Baltic nation; two years ago, it unveiled its version of the Group N EvoX and last year, re-affirmed its speed with British drivers Mark Higgins and Tom Cave both demonstrating excellent pace.
There is currently just a single Super2000 car on the entry list for Talsi Rally, the Skoda Fabia S2000 of Swede Per-Arne Saav, for MML Sports to compare the pace of the R4 Lancer against. The new regulations have been developed to improve the competitiveness of Group N/R4 cars against the lighter S2000 and the company is keen to assess the benefits of its R4 car, which is now significantly lighter than its Group N stablemate.
However, while there is only one S2000, the field is predominantly made up of Group N cars, including several regulars from the FIA Production car World Rally Championship, which should allow the company to gauge the R4's pace compared with the heavier cars.
The experience of Ketomaa will be doubly beneficial, as the Finn will have come almost directly from Sardinia, where he will have taken part in Rally d'Italia in a Group N Lancer, so will be able to give the team almost instant feedback on the differences and benefits of the R4 car.
MML Sports will also be able to draw on the experience of R4 development partners Ralliart Italy, which will also be appearing in Italy, with another Finn, Matti Rantanen at the wheel and Juha Salo in a Group N car, making immediate comparisons possible.
This means that by the time the MML Sports Mitsubishi Lancer EvolutionX R4 reaches the start ramp in Talsi, it will have the best chance to show what the car is capable of.
Commenting, MML Sports Managing Director John Easton said: "I am very excited about seeing the fruits of our labours developing the R4 specification of EvolutionX on behalf of Mitsubishi Motors realised. We and our suppliers have worked very hard to ensure that we can not only service the demand externally but also, debut our own car on this event, where we unveiled our GpN EvoX two years ago.
"We know on paper what the R4 EvoX should be capable of; we have taken roughly 60Kg out of the finished weight of a Group N car and theoretically, feel that should give an advantage of around 0.5s/Km over a Group N car.
"However, the rationale for R4 is to bring the Lancer closer to the S2000 cars and with only a single Skoda S2000 on the event, I'm not sure we will get a realistic picture of the improvements. But there are plenty of Group N cars, with very quick drivers in them, so we should be able to make an assessment of the benefits that way."
In addition to Ketomaa in the R4 Lancer, the company will also run Raimonds Kisiels in the Lancer WRC and the three Russian drivers in Group N Lancers; Aleksander Novoselov, Mikhail Orkin and Vladimir Sokolov.
The event begins with four stages on the afternoon of Saturday 14 May, including two runs of the BTA superspecial stage in the centre of Talsi town. Sunday 15 May sees a further six stages, culminating with the 34Km TurtleWax stage. The first crew is expected to reach the finish ramp at 16.45 local time.