Ivars Vasaraudzis dominated last weekend's Rally Talsi, the third round of the Latvian Rally Championship, at the wheel of his MML Sports Mitsubishi Lancer World Rally Car. He took the win on all but one of the event's eight stages to claim the outright honours, while team-mate Raimonds Kisiels finished the event in fifth place, the same as on last year's rally.
Vasaraudzis was the clear favourite for the event win, having taken victory last year and on every round since. He set his stall out early, taking the scratch time on each and every one of the eight stages that were run, with the exception on the first superspecial stage.
On that occasion, he was head-to-head with Kisiels, who stalled on the start line. When Vasaraudzis completed his first lap, Kisiels' car was still in the way and this delayed him, though only to second-fastest.
He eventually reached the finish ramp of the event as winner, with a margin of almost two minutes over his nearest rival.
The event followed a familiar pattern for Kisiels also, who started well and by the penultimate stage, was in fourth place, less than three seconds off a podium result.
However, the final stage of the event, a huge 36.6Km test, proved too much of a challenge for the driver, who struggled to maintain his performance for the full duration and dropped to fifth overall as a result. This mirrors almost exactly his result on last year's event and is what he described as; "like tradition".
The trio of fledgling Russian drivers, all piloting MML Sports prepared and run Mitsubishi Lancer EvolutionX Group N cars, eventually ran as VIPs ahead of the field and as such, were not classified in the final results. However, despite their complete lack of experience in competition, they acquitted themselves well, driving a rally car for the first time on gravel.
All three enjoyed the experience enormously and will now undertake a more concentrated development program, before their actual competition debut on the Kerzume Rally, later on this season.
Commenting on the weekend, MML Sports Managing Director John Easton said; "Once again, we enjoyed a superb weekend in Latvia. Ivars was the class of the field, as we expected and I'm delighted that he could take another convincing win.
"Raimonds also put in an excellent performance and it's only the length of the final stage that prevented him from claiming a podium position.
"I'm also delighted that Vladimir, Mikhail and Alexander enjoyed their outing. I think that with their lack of experience, running as VIP 1, 2 and 3 was the right decision and they all enjoyed their experience enormously. We will now arrange some intensive training for all three, perhaps at Chateau Lastours in France, in June and July so that they can develop their techniques ready for their genuine competition debuts on Rally Kerzume in August.
"I must say that the sight of six tents in the Talsi service park, five for the cars and one for tyres, along with our hospitality unit, was fantastic. I apologise to the other competitors and the organisers for the amount of space we took up but we couldn't avoid it!"