Singh claims fourth on Mexican debut After an impressive drive, Team Proton PERT Malaysia drivers Karamjit Singh and Allen Oh have ended their first event in the Mexican mountains in an impressive fourth position in the FIA Production Car World...
Singh claims fourth on Mexican debut
After an impressive drive, Team Proton PERT Malaysia drivers Karamjit Singh and Allen Oh have ended their first event in the Mexican mountains in an impressive fourth position in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship. Proving to be a survival of the fittest, Corona Rally Mexico claimed many victims but the Malaysian duo drove hard to bring their Go K.L/Malaysia Tourism and Petronas sponsored Gp N Proton PERT to the finish to secure five valuable world championship points.
Today's final leg drew to a close Rally Mexico's first outing as a World Rally Championship event. Drivers contested five final demanding stages and 132.06km of competition to finish what has proved to be an arduous and extremely challenging event. As testimony to this, only 26 of an original 54 starters made it to the finish ramp.
Making his debut in Mexico, unlike some of his rivals in the Production Car Championship, Karam made a solid start on the opening leg of the event on Friday (March 12) securing sixth position overnight despite a spin on SS1. Others were not so lucky, rival Mark Higgins' Rally Mexico was over almost as soon as it begun as he retired 4kms into SS1 and Alister McRae and Manfried Stohl suffered a puncture and broken engine respectively.
Leg 2 proved to be a test of nerve and attrition as both McRae and Stohl retired early on, elevating Karam to fifth place. Keeping his focus and determination Karam was quick to capitalise on the situation by setting a blistering third fastest stage time on SS6, the downhill Derramadero - Chichimequillas stage. Stage conditions deteriorated rapidly during the second loop of three stages in the afternoon but Karam powered through them, setting an impressive third and fourth fastest stage time on SS9 and SS10 respectively, to move him into fourth position for the start of today's final leg.
With only five final stages standing between them and a valuable points winning finish on their first Corona Rally Mexico, Karam and Allen were determined to push as hard as possible today whilst endeavouring to ensure their Mellors Elliot Motorsport prepared Gp N Proton PERT made it to the finish in one piece. A spin on SS11 did little to knock the Malaysian duo's confidence as they continued to push as hard as possible throughout SS12 and SS13, setting third and fourth fastest stage times. Leaving service with only two stages left to run and over a minute gap to Niall McShea in third, a sensible run was called for to make it to the finish ramp. Safely through SS14, Karam ended the event on a high with second fastest stage time on the concluding SS15 to finish his first event in the Mexican mountains in a well deserved fourth position and securing five world championship points.
Karam comments: "We pushed hard from the very start today and had a spin on stage eleven which cost us about twenty seconds. We had a clear run through the following two stages but the sensible option was to go for five championship points and not risk any heroics. We continued to attack as much as possible throughout the day as it was so important for us to secure a good finish and gets some points before going to New Zealand.
"On the final two stages we had a sensible steady run and we're happy to take fourth place and five championship points on our first Rally Mexico. It's been a really tough rally, very hard on the car and very difficult to drive, just look at how many competitors have been off the road here! Preparations are now underway for Rally New Zealand - it's an event I know well and hopefully we'll be able to go one better there and secure a podium result."
Team Proton PERT Malaysia's next event will be the Propecia Rally New Zealand, which takes place on 16 -18 April, and it is an event that Karam has contested twice before, in 2002 and 2003. With only two competitors scoring points on both of the opening two rounds, excitement now builds as we head to the Southern Hemisphere for round three of the 2004 FIA Production Car Championship.