Next weekend will see a full turn-out for MML Sports Ltd, the company formed from the former works Mitsubishi rally team. The company will be running two Mitsubishi Lancer World Rally Cars and three Lancer EvolutionX Group N cars on Rally Talsi, the third round of this year's Latvian Rally Championship.
Rally Talsi is the first of this season's spring/summer events. The first two rounds of this year's series took place in the winter months and were full snow rallies, whereas Talsi marks the return of the series to gravel, longer days and hopefully, drier weather.
This year, MML Sports will be running a pair of Lancer WRCars, for regular drivers Ivars Vasaraudzis and Raimonds Kisiels. Vasaraudzis won the event last year and will this year again be partnered by regular co-driver, Peteris Spredzis. On the basis of their performances both on this event and the series generally last year and this; they are firm favourites for the overall spoils next weekend.
Kisiels, co-driven by Gatis Lanavas, finished fifth last year, despite looking like a podium position was theirs for the taking before a last-minute spin demoted them. However, like Vasaraudzis, they will be looking to put in a strong performance as the series moves onto gravel.
The company will also be fielding three Group N Lancer EvoX rally cars, for a trio of fledgling Russian drivers, all of whom make their competition debut on the event. Neither Vladimir Sokolov, Mikhail Orkin nor Alexander Novoselov have driven a rally car in competition before, although all three took part in MML Sports' recent Arctic Star event, which saw them get a taste of the Lancer WRCar on a frozen lake.
Former co-driver to Ivars Vasaraudzis and brother of current co-driver, Valdis Spredzis will be co-driving for Sokolov and all three drivers will get their first taste of the MML Sports EvoX the weekend before Talsi, as the company arranges a pre-event test and familiarisation event for the drivers.
This will allow them to begin to learn the car, as well as develop their pace notes and a base set-up for the forthcoming event, which will see them feel their way into the sport of rallying gradually.
Commenting on the upcoming event, MML Sports Managing Director John Easton said; "I'm very excited about this year's Rally Talsi. It will be the biggest single event for us since MML Sports was formed and the fact that we will be running all five cars from the same service area means that we will have a huge presence in the service park. We will also be using our hospitality unit, as well as virtually every support vehicle we have available.
"In fact, I looks as if our cars will form 5% of the entire entry - an amazing achievement and testament to the competitiveness of both the Lancer WRCar and the Gp N EvoX.
"I certainly hope that Ivars and Peteris are able to repeat last year's performance, which was a faultless drive throughout the event. I also hope that Raimonds and Gatis are able to claim the result that they should have taken away last year.
"I think the Russian drivers have a fairly big challenge ahead of them but at the same time, all three are approaching the event in exactly the right way. They will each be undergoing pre-event training and testing and know that the best way to gain the maximum experience is not to try to set fast times to begin with but learn the car and the nature of the event and get as many miles as possible under their belts."
This year's Rally Talsi features four stages on the afternoon of Saturday 15 May, followed by a further five stages on Sunday 16 May, with the rally base situated on the outskirts of the national capitol, Riga.