Determined performance nets Spitzmuller fourth

A determined performance by Csaba Spitzmuller in the MML Sports-run Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 netted a fine fourth place this weekend on the Miskolc Rally, after the Hungarian rally champion made a rare mistake and damaged his car. Spitzi fought back from 16th to fourth by setting fastest times on almost all the stages after he went off and damaged the rear suspension on the event’s third timed test.

The Miskolc Rally is, by Spitzi’s own admission, his bogey event even though it is also his home rally. However, he approached it with his trademark professionalism, as did the MML Sports team as they prepared and ran the World Rally Car that Spitzi used to claim last year’s national title, as well as the outright win on the first event of this season.

Another tarmac event, it began well for Spitzi and co-driver Miki Kazar. However, it was in the third stage of the event where the problem would occur. The pair went off the road and hit a rock or tree stump with the car’s rear wheel. While this didn’t cause any structural or body damage, it did break the damper top mount on that corner of the car, meaning that the wheel was effectively disconnected from the car.

The crew lost one minute as they limped out of the stage and they incurred a further 1min10secs of penalties as they brought the car carefully back to service for repairs to be carried out.

The experienced MML Sports mechanics, used to operating under pressure, quickly set about the car and replaced all the damaged components as well as checking the settings for the car’s suspension, all within the specified time allowed. Therefore, Spitzi and Kazar left service in a perfect condition car with no further time penalties.

Spitzi then spent the rest of the event on a charge to recover the lost time and maximise his points haul. Having dropped to 16th following the problems, he spent the rest of the first day and all the second consistently setting fastest or second-fastest stage times, against stiff competition, comprising no less than six other world rally cars.

By the time the crews reached the finish ramp, he and Kazar had climbed to fourth place overall, a tantalising 7.9 seconds adrift of third and a podium position.

Commenting on the weekend, MML Sports Managing Director John Easton said: “It’s a shame that Spitzi wasn’t able to get a better position but I think all things considered, this is a good result. I think had there been more stages and additional distance, he would easily have climbed higher and without the accident, would have been looking good for another win.

“However, a rare mistake by him caused the damage to the rear suspension. He admits that they were going quite quickly when they went off and although he doesn’t know exactly what they hit, it was solid enough to break the damper top mount. This was replaced at service and I’m very pleased with the job the MML Sports technicians did to make sure the car was repaired completely and got out on time.

“The accident aside, it was a very good rally: seven World Rally Cars demonstrates the level of competition in Hungary and I’m sure that without the time lost, Spitzi would have been trading times with all the drivers for the win. I know that this is Spitzi’s least favourite event of the season but at this point last year, he had a second and a DNF. This year, we have a win and a fourth, so we’re in a better position than the same time in 2008, when he took the title for the first time.”

The next event sees Spitzi and Kazar compete on tarmac for the third time so far this season, as they tackle the Salgotarjan Rally on the weekend of 16/17 May.

This will be another busy weekend for MML Sports, since as well as running Spitzi in Hungary, the company will also be debuting the MML Sports Mitsubishi Lancer EvoX Group N car on the Talsi Rally in Latvia. In addition to the EvoX, MML Sports will also be running two more Lancer World Rally Cars on the same event and supporting Finnish Champion Juha Salo. British Rally Champion Guy Wilks will give the EvoX its competition debut on an event that already has no less than five national champions on the entry list.