Local driver Felipe Feitas claimed an impressive sixth overall and was the winning group N car at this weekend's Rali Vinho Madeira, at the wheel of his MML Sports-prepared Group N Mitsubishi Lancer EvoX. The event was the eighth round of this year's Intercontinental Rally Challenge and saw a brace of regular IRC competitors join the ranks of the locals in a host of cars, primarily Super2000 machines.
Freitas was consistently the top-performing GroupN driver to begin with on the wet asphalt stages, holding seventh place overall by the mid-point of the first day. However, set-up changes meant that he struggled to maintain his pace in the afternoon, on the now-drying stages and regular adversaries Rui Pinto and team-mate Joao Magalhaes both made in-roads to his position, demoting him to ninth.
But by the end of the first day, he had regained the position from Magalhaes, to head into day two in eighth place overall, just ten seconds behind Pinto.
The three leading Maderian protagonists enjoyed a superb battle on the second day of the event, swapping stage times constantly over the three opening tests. However, Pinto had an accident on SS17 while reigning IRC champion Kris Meeke also suffered and engine failure on his Peugeot, promoting Freitas to sixth overall and easing some of the pressure.
All he had to do now was keep Magalhaes at bay for the remaining four stages, which he did, to claim his career-best result of sixth and three IRC points, with a margin of almost 30 seconds over Magalhaes.
Commenting after the event, MML Sports Managing Director John Easton said; "This is a fantastic result, for Felipe, Team CD National de Madeira and of course, MML Sports. Felipe drove a perfect event and other than the loss of time on Friday afternoon, when he struggled to find grip after changing the car settings, was the class of the field. Exactly what we hoped for.
"It's also excellent to see just how competitive the MML Sports Group N EvoX is, against the established IRC field. We knew that on tarmac, it would have a disadvantage against the S2000 cars but Felipe showed that this needn't be such a huge issue when the car is driven well and the team maintains its consistency.
"On behalf of MML Sports, I would like to offer congratulations to Felipe and the rest of the team."
There was more good news for MML Sports this weekend, as Slovakian driver Jaraoslav Melicharek finished third in the latest round of the national championship at the wheel of his MML Sports Mitsubishi Lancer WRCar. Melicharek had recently received driver training from Mark Higgins, arranged by MML Sports and clearly this was still paying off, as he claimed his second podium finish and now has a chance of winning the national championship in his first year at the wheel of the MML Sports Lancer WRCar.
Commenting, Easton said; "I'm very pleased that Jarrick was able to get another podium result, as it shows that he is clearly understanding more how to drive the Lancer WRC and demonstrating his ability. He is now in a position where he could win the Slovakian championship, which means that drivers of our cars could potentially take the overall championship titles in Latvia, Holland and Slovakia."