There will be two champions at the wheel of rally cars prepared by MML Sports on next weekend's Kurzeme Rally in Latvia. Reigning Latvian champion Ivars Vasaraudzis will drive his regular Mitsubishi Lancer WRCar, while triple British Rally Champion Mark Higgins will demonstrate the improvements to the MML Sports Lancer EvolutionX Group N car.
Vasaraudzis is well on track for his second national title at the wheel of the Lancer WRCar, partnered by co-driver Peteris Spredzis. So far this season, he has won every round of the championship in the Baltic state that he has contested and therefore, is firm favourite for the penultimate round of the 2010 series.
If he takes the win on next weekend's Rally Kurzeme and on the final round, Rally Latvia in September, he will take the overall title, his second at the wheel of the MML Sports prepared and run Lancer.
Team-mate Raimonds Kisiels will be driving the second Lancer WRCar and will be looking to consolidate his season, as he gains in confidence and pace with every event.
MML Sports will also field a trio of Group N Lancer EvoX rally cars. Two will be piloted by Russians Mikhail Orkin and Alexander Novoselov while the third, MML Sports' own development car, will be driven by triple British rally champion, Mark Higgins.
MML Sports has developed the Group N EvoX significantly since it's competition debut in Latvia last year and the car that Higgins will drive is 60Kg lighter than the original, as well as having 65Nm more torque available. It also features revised suspension and transmission settings and the company is confident that in Higgins' hands, will demonstrate its competitiveness.
Higgins has also been working with both Orkin and Novoselov in the run-up to the event, conducting training sessions and will carry out a further three-day coaching and test session immediately prior to the start of the rally.
Commenting, MML Sports Managing Director John Easton said; "Kurzeme is going to be a busy weekend for us but hopefully, a successful one. Ivars needs to win in both Kerzume and Rally Latvia to take this year's title and assuming he has no problems with the car, I'm confident that he is capable of doing just that.
"It will be good to see Mikhail and Alexander in the car again. Hopefully the work they have done with Mark will have paid off and they will not only enjoy their first taste of actual competition but also show what they are capable of.
"I think having Mark in our development car will be very interesting. We have carried out a huge amount of development on it since Rally Talsi last year, both in terms of the overall package and the detail and we want to see what a champion driver can do with it. I'm confident that we have made significant progress with the Group N EvoX over the last 12 months and I'm looking forward to demonstrating that next weekend."
The company also featured in a promotional video the organisers of the event produced, which was aired on Latvian TV recently. This pitted Vasaraudzis in the Lancer against an F2 powerboat around a dock and saw the Lancer go head to head with the powerboat in a drag race and round a circuit.
Not surprisingly, the Lancer won out in the drag race but wasn't able to keep up with the powerboat round the circuit. Explaining, Easton said: "It was very interesting to see the powerboat go up against the Lancer. We thought the car may have the advantage off the line but it simply couldn't keep up with the boat around the circuit. Once they reach maximum speed, they tend to stay there until the finish line; they just don't lift through the corners - it's quite a sight to see."
The Kurzeme Rally begins with a double run of the superspecial stage through the streets of the host town on the evening of Friday 27 August, followed by seven stages on Saturday 28 August, before the leading crews reach the finish podium at 18.45 local time.