New year and new projects for MML Sports

  • Final prep of MML Sports-developed Suzuki SX4 ‘World Rally Car’
  • Homologation of official Mitsubishi R4 kit
  • Completion of Cosworth Subaru Impreza 400 build
  • Development of MML400 EvoX road car
  • Build of historic specification Ford Escort
  • Full speed launch of rally season

While for many the early part of the year is a quiet one, the opposite has turned out to be the case for MML Sports Ltd, the Rugby, UK-based motorsport and high performance specialists. Approaching the end of January, the company has recently completed a number of projects and is in the process of several new ones, while approaching the start of its traditional multi-regional rally programme.

Following its exceptional debut in December, when Sean Gill took it to second place overall on Rally Jamaica, the company is putting the finishing touches to the Suzuki SX4 ‘World Rally Car’ that it built for Simpson Motors, the Suzuki distributor for the Caribbean. Using suspension, transmission and electronics systems MML Sports refined over several years in the FIA World Rally Championship, the car uses an engine developed by its engine partner, HKS in conjunction with Simpson Motors and MML Sports.

The company has been constantly developing its version of the Group N Mitsubishi Lancer EvolutionX rally car and has recently been tasked by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation to partner with Ralliart Italy to develop, homologate and produce the kit of parts to convert GpN EvoXs to R4 specification.

This latest specification introduced by the FIA is aimed at equalising the performance of Group N and Super2000 and the first step focuses on weight reduction. A heated windscreen allows the heater to be removed and lightweight panels, Perspex windows and fabricated suspension components mean that the GpN EvoX will weigh some 45Kg less in R4 specification. And if the lightweight battery, turbo housing and underfloor protection developed by MML Sports are also used, this sheds a further 15Kg from the car giving a total weight saving of over 60Kg.

The company’s facilities and ability to respond quickly to customer demands were exploited by one of the most iconic names in motorsport recently, when Cosworth approached MML Sports to carry out the actual conversion work on its special edition of the road-going Subaru Impreza, the 400. The task involved MML Sports removing the engine from all 75 production cars and shipping it to Cosworth for the internal work, before refitting the engine, as well as replacing the suspension, brakes and fuel system and then setting each car up on its computerised four-wheel alignment system.

Just as the Cosworth job was beginning, the company started development of its own high performance version of the road-going Lancer EvoX, dubbed the ‘MML400’, denoting 400bhp. Initial examples used the traditional, manual transmission but MML Sports is in the process of developing the SST or dual-clutch paddle-shift transmission to cope with the increased power and torque generated by its conversion, as well as increase shift speed. This will be the first time the SST gearbox will have been able to handle increased performance and MML Sports is understandably excited by the prospect.

But it’s not all ultra-high technology; the company has also been engaged to build a historic specification Mk1 Ford Escort rally car. The bodyshell work and roll cage installation have already been carried out and the car will feature a Willcox engine, ZF transmission and a full-floating rear axle, as well as every other genuine period accessory to recreate one of the most evocative rally cars of all time.

And of course, all this is taking place as the company gears up for the start of its 2011 rally campaign, using its fleet of Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 World Rally Cars and Group N EvoXs. By the end of February, it will have contested rallies in Lithuania, Latvia and the Netherlands, as well as carried out two tests and a rally in Barbados for the Suzuki SX4 and a further test in the snow and ice of Latvia.

Commenting, MML Sports Managing Director John Easton said; “I don’t think we’ve ever had such a busy start to the year, even when we were running the Mitsubishi works rally team. We worked literally up to Christmas and hit the ground running as soon as we got back in the New Year.

“I’m certainly not complaining though. It’s incredibly exciting to be involved in so many projects, spanning almost every area that we operate in. For example, I’m delighted that Mitsubishi has asked us to partner with Ralliart Italy to develop, homologate and then, produce and distribute the components for the first phase of the R4 programme. We have already managed to shave 60Kg off the finished weight of the GpN EvoX and we’re very pleased with that.

“The work on the Cosworth Imprezas went very well. We worked with Cosworth to try to streamline the production and procurement elements of the program and converted all the cars within the time frame and to their satisfaction. This spurred us on to speed up the development of the MML400 and working with our transmission partners, I’m looking forward to debuting the first 400bhp SST-equipped EvoX.

“On the sporting side, the Suzuki SX4 turned out very well and we are currently putting the finishing touches on the car prior to returning it to the Caribbean for the start of the season. We have two UK tests scheduled and I’m sure by the time it gets to its first event, it will be a winning car. Our other programmes are also about to start, with the Winter rally in Lithuania, where Ivars will drive the GpN EvoX for the first time in competition. Then Sarma Rally in Latvia and Haspengouw in Holland, before the end of February.

“I thought last year was busy but I may have underestimated it…”