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The green light is officially on for the 2003 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship as reigning Champion, Karamjit Singh, prepares to turn up the heat on the opening round of the series, the Uddeholm Swedish Rally (5-9 February) next weekend. Driving a Gp N Proton PERT, the event will not only be Karam and co-driver Allen Oh’s debut on Swedish ice lands but also the first time the reigning Asia Pacific Champions will have competed on snow!
A classic event of extreme conditions, the Swedish Rally is the only snow rally in the World Championship. Temperatures have been known to plunge to a breath taking -30 degrees Celsius with abundant snow and ice creating inhospitably treacherous conditions. Despite this the Swedish Rally is also one of the fastest in the World Championship as the cars are fitted with ice biting studded tyres which provide them with grip equal to normal road conditions!
Based in Karlstad in central Sweden, 250km west of the capital Stockholm, the Swedish Rally is home to some of the best stages in the world and requires a totally different style of driving. At its coldest, with ample snow, experienced drivers use the high snow banks that line the fast forest tracks to ‘lean’ the car into the outside of bends, thus keeping the car on the right line. Milder weather, however, could mean fewer snow banks and a different discipline altogether with drivers having to negotiate solid ice stages and their razor sharp tyres churning up the gravel below.
Like its other Nordic counterpart Rally Finland, Sweden favours the locals; in fact no one from outside the Nordic countries has ever won the rally in its 52 year history, highlighting the advantage of detailed knowledge of the roads and the difficulties newcomers face.
Undeterred Karamjit looks forward to his first taste of winter rallying through the ice-bound Swedish countryside:
Karam comments: “This will be my first Swedish Rally and the first time I’ve ever competed on snow. I’m really looking forward to it as it’s going to be a completely new experience for us, especially competing in such freezing cold weather. During testing in Sweden temperatures dropped to -27 and when you come from a country that enjoys temperatures of +27 and over that’s quite a shock to the system.
“Over the past few days there has been no fresh snowfall but I’m hoping that this drop in temperature will bring plenty of it before the start of the rally as it certainly will make conditions a lot easier and faster. As newcomers to the rally it’s going to take time to adapt to the right driving style and we’ll also be up against plenty of local competition but I think we’re going to really enjoy this event and hopefully score a good result.”
The Uddeholm Swedish Rally runs from the 5-9 February and covers 386.91kms in a total distance of 1935.13km over three competitive legs and 17 special stages.
All legs are based around a single service park at Hagfors, in central Sweden and the event begins with a ceremonial start on Thursday evening (6 February) in Karlstad. Friday (7 February), Leg 1, then sees an early start for teams as the rally continues at 06.00 with six stages and 125.79km of competition, including the highest and longest stage of the event, the daunting 43.69km Granberget stage, before the day concludes with a sprint around the new public floodlit stage at the sports stadium and race track in Hagfors, finishing at 18.30.
Leg 2, the longest day of the rally, starts at 05.20 on Saturday (8 February) with another six stages comprising 140.37km and includes a second run through Granberget, again concluding with another sprint around Hagfors sports stadium and race track, finishing at 18.30.
The final and shortest day, Leg 3, begins at 05.30 on Sunday (9 February) and contains five stages taking in 120.75km and concludes with a finish ceremony in Karlstad at 17.00.