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Karamjit Singh and his co-driver Allen Oh clinched this year’s FIA Asia-Pacific Championship when they won the Shaoguan China Rally on Monday.
The Malaysian Petronas EON Racing crew defeated nearest rivals Nico caldarola/Giovanni Agnese by 4m 44.2s after a comfortable run through the day’s three stages, which were all used twice. They were also boosted before the leg when a jump start penalty from leg two was annulled, making them the fastest crew over the day and earning them three bonus points.
“I was having a Sunday drive on a Monday,” joked the new champion, who drives a Gp A Proton Pert. “It actually adds to the pressure when you have to go so carefully on stages that are inherently fast, but I think we judged it quite well.”
Singh will now tackle the final round of the Gp N World Production Cup, which he leads by two points, in Australia later this month with added confidence.
He said: “To win the title with outright victory is a fantastic feeling. Now we can go to Australia, where we know we have to push hard and go all out for the win, with some extra confidence.”
Team Top run driver Caldarola had always looked odds-on for second place, but was made to work far harder than expected when it emerged that he had booked into a control one minute early on the second leg.
The ensuing penalty put Team MRF Tyres Mitsubishi Lancer E7 driver Stuart Warren just under three seconds clear in second, and the New Zealander pushed hard to maintain the advantage over his rival. The pair remained close over the opening loop of three stages, but Caldarola eventually prevailed by 9.4s.
“There was nothing left in the car,” said Warren, who must now win Gp N on the final round in Thailand to have any hope of stopping Caldarola’s charge towards the production car title. “We went with a cut in the tyre on the first loop and it worked well. But we figured the roads would clean so we didn’t put the cut in the second time – it was a mistake.”
Caldarola was much happier in the day’s dry conditions, saying: “It has been a difficult day trying to beat Stuart. We had to push very hard, but we drove very, very fast so I am very, very happy.”
Fourth was taken by Reece Jones (Reece Jones Rallying Mitsubishi Lancer E6), who continued to set quick times throughout the day, but conceded that without the second leg’s wet weather he was unlikely to claw back the more than one minute deficit to the third-placed car.
Nevertheless, his pace moved him within 33.9s of Warren and the New Zealander said: “I think our two punctures on the opening leg cost us about three minutes, so I hope we’ve proved the pace is there even if the luck isn’t.”
Jardine Lloyd Thompson-backed John Lloyd finally felt that he got in the groove of the event on the final day, revelling in the leg’s super quick stages and consistently improving his times on the reruns. His only problem in his Neil Allport Motorsports-prepared Gp A Mitsubishi Lancer E6 came with an early spin.
“It’s typical that I wait until the end of the rally and then start driving properly,” said Lloyd. “The gaps in front and behind were too big either way, so I just went out and enjoyed myself.”
Hua Qingxian held off the challenge of his Chinese rivals to claim an impressive sixth in his Mitsubishi Lancer E6.
Brian Green also continued his impressive turn of pace in his Neil Allport Motorsports-tended Gp A Mitsubishi Lancer E6. Although he could only compete for bonus points after retiring on the opening leg, he returned to the fray and showed good pace over the remaining two days.