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Reigning champions, Karamjit Singh and Allen Oh, in their Gp N Proton PERT, completed what has been a truly outstanding Swedish Rally debut today to finish third in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship. A remarkable achievement considering this has been the first time in Karam’s 17 year rally career that he has ever competed on snow. Consistently exchanging fastest stage times with Swedish Rally regulars, Karam, looked comfortable on the Swedish ice-lands and starts the 2003 season with a well deserved six championship points.
With another ten retirements on yesterday’s long and difficult leg, 60 starters left a very damp and dismal Karlstad this morning for the third and final day of the 2003 Swedish Rally. Temperatures remained very similar to yesterday, at 2-3C, causing further thawing on the roads and a deterioration of stage conditions as a top layering of snow turned to slush starting to reveal the solid ice base beneath.
Today’s showdown, the shortest leg of the rally, saw the completion of five tests, three of which had already been used earlier on in the event, covering 120.75 competitive kilometres.
Despite thick fog hampering Karam’s progress on SS13, the opening very fast and flowing 14.17km Sagen stage, the reigning champion put in an impressive performance to take 3.7 seconds off to rival Kulig narrowing the gap to third position to a mere 11.5 seconds. On full attack on SS14, Karam continued to shadow his Polish competitor, with only 4.2 second separating their stages times.
SS15 saw the retirement of Production Car Swedish Rally leader Toshi Arai with engine problems, but the 11.91km stage was to present no such troubles for Karam. Chasing hard he set a blistering stage time, fastest of all the Production Cup competitors, including Swedish born Stig Blomqvist who has competed here over 30 times before! Following Arai’s retirement Karam automatically moved to third position, the battle between himself and Kulig now brewing for second and with only 21.2 seconds separating the top three it was all to play for.
Not wanting to risk losing third position Karam decided to hold station and steer clear of the fierce battle developing for first place, a wise decision considering only two stages remained before the finish ramp in Karlstad. Keeping his focus, a controlled and tactical drive through SS16 and SS17 of today’s final hurdle saw Malaysia’s ‘Flying Sikh’ safely complete his first ever Swedish Rally in a well deserved third position with six points in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship.
Karam comments: I’m really happy with how the rally’s gone. We knew we couldn’t win here because we have no experience on snow, so realistically we were expecting a top five place, but to get third is fantastic result for our first time on the Swedish Rally. It been a real experience to drive so fast on snow and I’ve really enjoyed it.
“A lot the Scandinavians have commented to us that they are really impressed with our speed here; I don’t think they expected us to be quite so competitive with no experience of these conditions. We’ve chased hard today and I’m very happy to get a podium position especially on a rally that is so different from any other I’ve ever competed and with six points it’s a very good start to the championship season.”