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Karamjit Singh and Allen Oh, in their Gp N Proton PERT, successfully completed the final leg of the toughest event in the 2003 World Rally Championship today. In treacherous conditions said to be second only to the famous car-breaking Safari Rally, the Malaysian duo battled through all five of today’s stages to finish third in the Production Car Championship, robbed only of second position by time lost due to a unlucky puncture on special stage 22.
More than living up to its reputation as one of the toughest events in the World Championship calendar, Legs 1 and 2 of Rally Argentina claimed almost half the field of entrants leaving 41 competitors to take the start of the third and final leg this morning. Drivers hoping for a short three stage final leg of competition today were disappointed. Due to the disturbance of yesterday’s schedule and the carry over of SS20 and SS22 the competitive distance for Leg 3 was nearly doubled from 59.90km to 105.49km.
With Karam lying in a comfortable third overnight, 19.2 seconds behind Niall McShea, today promised an exciting battle for position. Determined to lower the gap and gain two valuable championship points Karam set a blistering pace on this morning’s opening SS21 (a re-run of yesterday’s SS20). Securing second fastest stage time behind rally leader Toshi Arai, he took an amazing 7.6 seconds off McShea to lower the gap to second position to just 11.6 seconds. It was all to play for on SS22 but instead fate was to take a hand as 14kms into the stage Karam hit a rock which caused a front left puncture. Forced to crawl through the remaining 9kms of the stage the Malaysian duo lost over a minute which allowed Daniel Sola to move ahead, dropping them to fourth.
Karam commented: “We had such a good start on the first stage today and made up a lot of time and were starting to put the pressure on McShea. Then on stage 22 we hit a rock and punctured the front left and had to drive the remaining nine kilometres of the stage with it. We lost over a minute; we were so unlucky; if it had been a rear perhaps we wouldn’t have lost so much.
On SS23, the short 9Km La Falda – Villa Giardino it was McShea’s turn to fall prey to the hand of fate as damage caused by a hard landing saw the Irishman retire from the rally elevating Karam once again to third position. With just two stages left to run, and unable to close the gap to Sola due to the time lost earlier, Karam sensibly decided to bring the car safely through SS24 and SS25 to secure a well deserved third position and six valuable World Championship points.
Karam comments: “I’m very happy to be here and to have made it through this rally considering all the problems we have had and the time we lost on day one and then suffering a puncture this morning. It has been such a tough event, so much rougher than last year and very hard on the car.
“I’m not unhappy with third position because we could have been put out of the rally completely but I feel sure we would have finished in second position had it not been for a puncture on stage 22, but that’s rallying. We did have the pace today we were just very unlucky, but we have gained six Championship points and are second in the Championship so we’ll see what happens in Cyprus”.
FIA Production Car World Rally Championship standings:
1) Toshi Arai 20pts
2) Karamjit Singh 17pts
3) Stig Blomqvist 11pts
=) Martin Rowe 11pts
5) Marcos Ligato 8pts
=) Daniel Sola 8pts
7) Hamed Al Wahaibi 6pts
8) Giovanni Manfrinato 5pts
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Andrea Lowther Tel: +44 (0) 29 20 38 30 88 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org