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Tuesday, 08 September 2009 00:00

First test to first win in 45 hours in WRC05

MML Sports pulled out all the stops for a new customer at the weekend, with less than 48 hours between the first test drive in the UK for Dutch driver Mark van Eldik and his first stage win on the Amsterdam RallySprint. The Dutchman was immediately at home in the MML Sports-run Mitsubishi Lancer World Rally Car, taking three wins from the six stages just two days after driving it for the very first time.

Van Eldik was in the UK on Friday to test the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 with a view to competing on the car in Holland later this year and into next season. MML Sports had arranged an early test for the Dutchman at the MIRA test-track close to its Rugby headquarters and van Eldik drove the car for the first time at around noon on Friday.

He was impressed with the car immediately yet wasn’t sure that it would prove competitive against other World Rally Cars running in Holland. He was keen to find out just how competitive the Lancer WRC05 could be, so asked MML Sports Managing Director John Easton if it would be possible to contest the Amsterdam RallySprint, a 60Km one-day single venue event, on the Sunday.

Easton takes up the story; “I was quite surprised when Mark asked if we could get a car and the support team and equipment to Holland for an event on the Sunday. However, as we consider ourselves a works team, it was just another challenge. Having agreed the deal at 5.30pm on Friday, I arranged for a car and lorry to travel to Holland over Friday night and through Saturday to ensure that we had the hardware in place. It was then a case of getting a couple of additional mechanics to staff the event and we were ready to go.”

Van Eldik was understandably apprehensive on the start line of the first stage, with no less than 12 World Rally Cars, including a 2007 Ford Focus WRC and an S14 Subaru Impreza forming his competition for the day. However, he threw down the gauntlet by setting the fastest stage time on the opening test of the event, the first time he had ever driven the car in anger.

He went on to take the fastest time on two more stages of the six-test event. His chances of an outright win on his first rally were cut short when he stalled on the start line of a later stage though. A lack of time in the car meant that he lost 20 seconds as he went about restarting it to continue. He also hit a kerb on another stage, causing a puncture which then caused the tyre to come off the wheel rim.

However, despite these problems, van Eldik was clearly impressed with the MML Sports Lancer WRC05 and is now looking into further events for the remainder of the 2009 season and beyond.

Commenting on the weekend, Easton said; “I couldn’t be happier for Mark. I think to achieve what he did this weekend with almost no experience of the car is fantastic and demonstrates that not only is he clearly a talented driver, the MML Sports Lancer WRC05 is a very easy car to drive quickly. And as I have said before, it shows clearly that we, as an organisation, can react very quickly to changing or new situations to get the maximum return for everyone.

“After such a successful first run, Mark is now looking at various options for the rest of this season and I hope that we won’t have to wait too long until he claims his first outright win.”

Click HERE for photographs from the event.

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