The MLC Computer Solutions Rally Team may be the new kids on the block but after paying school fees for five years in the Northern Regions Rally Championship, Murray Lloyd and Ralph Lehmann are confident of leaving an indelible mark in the SA National Rally Super 1600 Championship.
Armed with a brightly stickered Volkswagen Polo Vivo, the Johannesburg businessmen aim to establish the MLC Team as serious championship contenders within the S1600 title race. “Our first aim is to finish every rally and get some seat time while collecting as many points as we can in the first half of the year; we will adopt a more conservative approach and if we have a chance of challenging for the title we can go flat out over the second half of the season”, Lloyd explained.
“Fortunately we did compete in the Tour Natal two years ago so there is some knowledge of what to expect, even though we eventually retired. After that is the Sasol and Gauteng rallies which we know quite well so the first few events should be positive for us”, he added.
The MLC team’s weapon of choice is the ex-Henk Lategan Volkswagen Polo Vivo, uprated to S1600 specification. “We won’t have our sequential gearbox in time for the Total Rally, so I’m half expecting the Fords and Citroen will flatten us. The trick will be not to get disillusioned with our stage times and over drive to try and make up time, although holding back is counter intuitive as I want to go as fast as possible all the time!”
Barry White is the man responsible for car preparation and already new parts are planned to improve torque and resolve some issues the Vivo experienced during its first season of competition. “If we get the parts, we will be full-house S1600 by the Sasol Rally. Fingers crossed”, Lloyd concluded.
Co-Driver Ralph Lehmann is hoping to put his 7 years of navigational skills to good use, starting in Durban. Following the team’s first test the week before the Total Rally, Lehmann was full of praise for their new Polo Vivo. “Coming from five years in a Subaru, I noticed it takes a wee bit longer to get up to speed”, he quipped.
“The cars were very similar in performance through the technical parts of our test stage. The Polo is lighter and more nimble and a bit slower so I will have to adjust my pace note delivery, although I doubt I’ll be taking a holiday in the car! The handbrake and brake balance on the VW gives us a new dimension to attacking corners without losing too much time, so that’s a big plus”, he added.
“Competing in the national rally championship is a bit like golf; you see the pros getting birdies and pars, but when you’re on the same course, you are nowhere even close! The Total Rally will be an exciting challenge for all of us”, Lehmann concluded.