Thu 01 Sep 2022

‘Relentless’ hard work pays off for Team MRF Tyres

Team MRF Tyres representative Vivek Ponnusamy has paid tribute to everybody involved in the squad’s history-making 2022 season.

The tyre giant became the first-ever Indian manufacturer to win a top-level championship in European rallying when Efrén Llarena and Sara Fernández sealed the drivers’ and co-driver’s titles before the start of last week’s Barum Czech Rally Zlín.

Although Llarena and Fernández crashed out of the penultimate round, MRF also secured the teams’ championship crown thanks to Norbert Herczig, Simone Campedelli and Javier Pardo bringing home a solid haul of points.  

Ponnusamy praised everybody involved in achieving the feat - adding that the news has been very well-received back home in India. 

“It’s just a dream for all of us,” Ponnusamy said, “and we could still also bring home second overall in the drivers’ championship with [Javier] Pardo. But it was hard work - genuinely hard work from everybody.

“Never in the history of mankind has an Indian company ever won an FIA championship - particularly in rallying. Before this year, an Indian company had never even won a European round of a championship. It’s a very proud moment that we can go to Europe to compete against the established teams and bring home a result. 

“This is not a fluke - it’s down to the relentless hard work from the development team, the manufacturing team, the management and, of course, the mechanics, drivers and co-drivers.

“What I have found very impressive this year is that, from every ERC mechanic to every tyre builder in the factory, everybody has that hunger and drive to win,” he continued. “As a team representative, not once have I seen anybody being lethargic or casual.

“Even this week, [development driver] Paolo Andreucci has been testing tyres already in San Remo to get ready for the final round in Spain. We will have some feedback and then the tyres will be ready and we will ship them by air to Spain - we are all constantly working.”

Ponnusamy explained that nurturing fresh talent was also one of the keys to success. Twenty-five-year-old Pardo joined the squad before round four in Poland, while Mārtiņš Sesks also featured twice and won on home soil at Tet Rally Liepāja.

“Young drivers are the future,” he said. “We want to create our own Kalle Rovanperä in the ERC and the championship gives us the platform to do that. 

“We have been committed to promoting youngsters in all areas - not just in ERC, but also at national level. We try to help them at national level and then we can bring them forward to ERC level. That’s why Mārtiņš, Javier and Efrén have all got the chance.

“You also need the experience of drivers like Norbert and Simone too. You need these level-headed guys and girls who can bring home the points when you really need them, and that paid off with helping us win the teams’ championship.” understands Llarena and Fernández will visit MRF’s facilities in Chennai and are expected to return to defend their titles next year. Other line-ups are still to be confirmed, although Ponnusamy would like to field cars in support categories too. 

“Next year we will be even stronger and there will be more teams running with MRF. What those teams are, I don’t know yet. 

“All I can say is that there will be more cars and more drivers in all categories. For us, to win ERC3 and ERC4 is our goal for next year - plus, obviously, the main title.”

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