Karam shows his pace on snowy season opener In only their second attempt at the Swedish Rally, Team Proton PERT Malaysia drivers Karamjit Singh and Allen Oh were holding a brilliant fourth place in the FIA Production Car World Rally ...
Karam shows his pace on snowy season opener
In only their second attempt at the Swedish Rally, Team Proton PERT Malaysia drivers Karamjit Singh and Allen Oh were holding a brilliant fourth place in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship category when the icy conditions saw their new Mellors Elliot Motorsport-prepared Group N Proton PERT slide into a deep snow-filled ditch on the penultimate stage. Spectators helped them get back on track, but over 13 minutes had been lost and they eventually finished in tenth place.
Today's showdown, the shortest leg of the rally, comprised of two loops of three stages covering 96.60kms. If the milder temperatures experienced before the event were unusual, normal service resumed today as bitterly cold wintry conditions returned to the Varmland area of Sweden. After heavy snow fell overnight, snow ploughs were sent through the special stages to make them passable. Despite this, frequent snow showers throughout the day resulted in stages resembling traditional Swedish Rally conditions and a change from the patchy ice and gravel experienced earlier in the event.
Sporting a new Gp N Proton PERT, made especially for 2004 thanks to backing from Proton and the Malaysian Government, Karam made a solid start on the opening leg of the rally on Friday (February 6) to secure fifth position overnight.
On only his second time competing on snow, Karam showed the locals that experience doesn't count for everything as he kept his nerve on the second leg of the rally to climb to third position. SS8 brought drama to day two by catching out both Toshi Arai and Gianluigi Galli who went off the road losing several minutes each. Karam suffered no such problems and made light work of the stage putting almost a minute and a half between himself and fourth placed Tomasz Kuchar. This turned out to be a crucial gap as towards the end of the day Karam's car suffered a momentary computer glitch which saw him slide off the road. With the help of spectators he managed to rejoin and complete the stage losing around 50 seconds, holding on to third position going into the final leg of the rally.
With fresh snowfall overnight today's final six stages were treacherously slippery, and Karam took an understandably cautious approach on the opening three stages of the day.
Karam comments: "After the front runners had been through, this morning's stages were mostly ice with only a little snow when we ran through them, unless you got off line. I've been sliding about a lot and have had so many close calls already today that I plan to just survive the last three stages of the rally."
Little did Karam know how relevant his statement would be, having slipped back to fourth place going into the second loop of this morning's three stages, he was determined to maintain position. Holding fourth, over a minute clear of fifth placed Kuchar coming out of SS17 it had looked as if he would achieve this until drama unfolded on the penultimate stage of the day. Karam understeered off the road on SS18 and got stuck in a ditch losing over 13 minutes.
Karam comments: "We slid off the road and ended up in a ditch at a forty five degree angle which made it very difficult for us to get out. Spectators did manage to get us out eventually but this time it took over thirteen minutes and all was lost."
Having lost so much time Karam made it through the final stage of the day to finish the Swedish Rally in tenth position in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship.
A philosophical Karam said: "I'm obviously very disappointed especially from a championship point of view as it was looking like we were going to secure five or six points here but in one stage they've all gone. These things happen; we still have five events left to go so there's still plenty of time to get some good results. Now I'm really looking forward to Rally Mexico and some sunshine compared to these cold conditions! It's a country I've never been to before and it'll be good to be back on gravel".
Team Proton PERT Malaysia's next event will be Rally Mexico, a new addition to the World Rally Championship calendar, which takes place on March 11-14. An all-gravel event, the rally is based in Leon and will bring much welcomed warmer weather after the coldness of Sweden.