British motorsport specialist MML Sports celebrated podium places for two of its rally cars in March; Bob de Jong claimed second place on the Tank-S Rallye in Holland while Neil Armstrong took the Simpsons Motor’s Suzuki SX4 WRC to second place on the Trinidad Rally on his first event in a four wheel-drive car.
De Jong is a regular customer of MML Sports, having purchased his Mitsubishi Lancer WRCar in 2010, following his father Bert’s lead, who has successfully campaigned one of the marque’s former FIA World Rally Championship contenders for several years.
Indeed, Bert’s car was the first Lancer WRC to be supplied in a colour other than the world-famous Mitsubishi Red – his was black – while Bob’s was supplied in Diamond White.
The two have enjoyed considerable success over the years and Bob’s 2013 campaign got off to a great start on the Tank-S Rally in March.
He began at a steady pace, setting seventh-fastest stage times on the first two timed tests. However, he soon found his customary rhythm and speed and by stage four, was setting second-fastest times by just a few seconds to Dennis Kuipers, driving a Ford Fiesta WRC. By the end of the event, de Jong was second to Kuipers, a perfect start to his season.
Further afield, the Suzuki SX4 World Rally Car, developed by MML Sports for Simsons Motors, the Caribbean Suzuki distributor, was preparing for its first event following a major pre-season test programme.
Former pilot Sean Gill had retired at the end of the previous year and for 29013, up-and-coming driver Neil Armstrong had been drafted in to represent the marque in the Caribbean series. Armstrong had demonstrated exceptional speed in front wheel-drive cars but had never driven a four wheel-drive World Rally Car on gravel and the team was apprehensive of how he would perform.
As it transpired, this apprehension was un-founded. Armstrong and co-driver Barry Ward were second fastest on both of the opening stages to hold second at the end of the first day, behind Jeffrey Panton in a 2008 Ford Focus WRC. They maintained their pace, and position, throughout the remaining nine stages and even claimed their first stage win, on the fifth timed test of the event. They eventually finished their first event in the Suzuki in second place behind Panton.
Commenting, MML Sports Managing Director John Easton said; “I am delighted that both Bob and Neil were able to put in such good performances in their first events of the season and offer our congratulations to both.
“We know Bob is very quick and consistent and he demonstrated this exceptionally, building up from a conservative start to set consistently competitive times. It is again very gratifying to see our car, with Bob at the wheel, setting times that are just a few seconds off those of a more experienced driver in a car which is almost ten years younger and is competing in the current WRC.
“I think Neil also did a fantastic job on the Trinidad Rally. Clearly, the combination of Neil, Barry and the MML Sports-prepared Suzuki SX4 WRC is one to watch for the season and I am certain it won’t be long before Simpsons Motors is congratulating Neil for his first win and hopefully, the championship.”
The company is now preparing for two extremely busy months, in April and May, which will see it competing on no less than 15 rallies, including its first foray into the North American Rally Championship. More details on this will follow shortly.