This weekend was one that 'could have been' for UK-based motorsport and automotive specialists MML Sports. The company missed out on clinching the FIA African Rally Championship with Team Kibos due to a rare mistake by Jassi Chatthe while leading Rally Tanzania and in the UK, Jamie Anderson was leading the Carlisle Stages rally before he too had difficulties.
MML Sports and Team Kibos arrived in Tanzania full of confidence, after a win on the recent round of the Kenyan national Rally Championship and the previous ARC round.
The event started well but soon became interesting. On the second stage, Jassi and co-driver Craig Thorley came across another competitor - their closest in the ARC - whose car was on fire. They stopped and lent a hand, and their fire extinguisher to settle the blaze before carrying on to the end of the stage. They actually won this stage by more than two minutes and by the time their competitors emerged from the stage, had a lead of more than nine minutes in the ARC standings.
With an advantage like that and the position of their competitor, all they had to do was drive their Mitsubishi Lancer EvolutionX R4 to the finish and the 2015 FIA ARC title would be theirs.
However, while approaching a downhill corner, Jassi's car slid wide and a deep ditch on the outside of the corner, not in his pace notes, caught the rear wheel and pulled it in. This resulted in the car pitching up and rolling several times, before coming to rest on its wheels. However, although both driver and co-driver were unharmed, the rally was over.
They will now head to the next round of the series, looking to extend their lead once more in an attempt to seal the title as soon as possible.
While Chatthe and Thorley were in action in Africa, Jamie Anderson was also out, in his Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 on the Carlisle Stages Rally in the UK, part of the BTRDA series. Using sections of the infamous Kielder Forest, the rough and dry rally saw Anderson hold the lead from the word go, heading the field for the first four of the six stages that made up the rally.
However, on the fifth timed test, he hit a rock on the stage and dislodged a tyre from the wheel rim. He tried to continue to the end of the stage but the conditions were so rough that the tyre shredded and damaged the front wing and bumper. The time loss dropped him and co-driver Jon Scott to virtually the bottom of the leaderboard and while they managed to salvage some of the loss on the final stage, they still ended the event in 62nd place.
Commenting, MML Sports Managing Director John Eaton said; "What began as a superb weekend soon became incredibly frustrating. Jassi and Craig were doing so well - a nine-minute lead in the ARC after three stages and all they had to do was finish the rally and they would have had the 2015 title. But Jassi didn't have 'Keep in' in his notes because of the massive ditch on the outside of the corner and he slid into it. There's a fair bit of damage to the car - nothing that will stop us being out on the next rally - but too much to be able to continue the rally.
"Jamie was also doing really well on the Carlisle Stages in the UK. He clearly had the car and conditions under control and it's just bad luck that he caught the rock and knocked the tyre off the rim. Driving out seemed like the right call but it obviously made a mess of the car in the rough conditions. "Even though we didn't get either of the results we were hoping for, there is still a lot to be positive about. The pace of both cars was superb, leading each rally before the drivers suffered problems. Also, the reliability of both the R4 and the WRCar was faultless and I'm sure it won't be long before we're congratulating Jassi on the 2015 ARC title and Jamie on his first outright BTRDA win."