This weekend saw frustration for the two local drivers of MML Sports’ Mitsubishi Lancer WRC World Rally Cars on Rally Latvia, the final round of the National Rally Championship. Ivars Vasaraudzis got stuck in a ditch on the first stage and finished fifth while Raimonds Kisiels struggled to find his form in the appalling conditions and four months after the last time he drove the car.
The weather in the run-up to the event was truly dreadful. High winds and heavy rain caused standing water across much of the stages and meant that the normally solid sandy roads became waterlogged and extremely soft. Many depressions became water splashes and the levels of grip changed dramatically for the competitors, from corner to corner.
Vasaraudzis made a rare mistake early on in the event, when he spun on the first stage. Ordinarily this wouldn’t cause a problem but the car went off the road into a ditch and it took the crew three minutes to get back onto the road. They discovered that no damage had been sustained and set about trying to recover as much of the lost time as possible.
Vasaraudzis and co-driver Peteris Spredzis went on to set the fastest time on each of the following six stages that formed the event. However, with a limited amount of stage mileage, they were unable to reclaim the top spot and eventually completed the event in fifth place, having dropped as low as 54th overall.
Team-mate Kisiels and co-driver Gatis Lanavas admitted that they were rusty at the beginning of the event, having not driven the Lancer WRC competitively since early on in the summer. They also approached the event and the very tricky conditions in a conservative manner, not wanting to risk damaging their car or suffering a similar fate to Vasaraudzis. They went on to finish eighth, half a minute behind Vasaraudzis.
Commenting on the weekend, MML Sports Managing Director John Easton said: “I can’t remember the last time I saw conditions as bad as this in the run-up to a rally. It really was like a hurricane, with the rain and the winds. I looked at some of the stages on Sunday and there were huge pools of standing water on most of the corners, so it was clear things were going to be very tricky.
“Ivars made a very rare mistake early on and it cost him dearly. However, he came back with his trademark speed and although he took the win on each of the remaining stages, there weren’t enough for him to get the lead back. Raimonds also put in a good performance, considering he hadn’t been in the car for so long and was very wary of the conditions. On the whole, I think it’s a shame that Ivars didn’t get the win but sometimes, that’s how it goes.”
While most of the MML Sports team were in Latvia, two more of the company’s cars were competing on Rally Indonesia. It had assisted in the preparation of two Group N Mitsubishi Lancer EvoXs to take part in the Indonesia Rally Championship and was delighted when one of the cars finished the event second, on its debut in the region. It was driven by Sadakin Aksa, who finished the event behind brother and Pertamina Bosowa Rally Team team-mate Subhan Aksa. The second MML Sports EvoX suffered a heavy roll early in the event and although it managed to regain the road, the loss in time meant that despite a string of excellent stage times in the afternoon, it was unable to finish better than sixth place.
Commenting, Easton said; “We are delighted that the two EvoXs put in such a good performance. Second place to their team-mate was an excellent first outing for Sidikal while the times put in by Akbar Hadianto in the second car after the damage was repaired were also very encouraging.”
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