Karamjit Singh is now free to focus on his final-round bid for the world rally championship Production Class crown after securing a consecutive Asia-Pacific title with a commanding win on the China Rally.
Driving a Group A Proton Pert, the Malaysian Petronas EON Racing driver led from the start to the finish of the Shaoguan-based event, extending by more than half a minute on Monday’s final leg to run out the winner by 4m44sec. He now has an unbeatable lead in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) with one round – the Rally of Thailand – still to run.
“We are very happy with the result, in fact we are delighted,” admitted Karamjit, whose navigator Allen Oh is also confirmed as the APRC’s champion co-driver with the win. “It hasn’t been too tough on today’s final leg, and now the feeling is fantastic.”
“We will have to work very hard to secure the world title on Rally Australia [which starts next Friday] but this result will help my confidence. And we can look forward to going on to Thailand and enjoying the event with less pressure.”
Behind Karamjit, a fast and furious battle for runner-up honours and the Group N win raged until the final special stage, with Nico Caldarola – last year’s China Rally winner – coming out ahead, by a slender 9.4sec margin from fellow Lancer Evo 7 driver Stuart Warren.
The Italian had started the day 2.6 secs in arrears of his Australian-based Kiwi rival after landing a one minute time penalty for clocking in early to the final time control on leg two. He fought back superbly, regaining second place overall on the day’s opening stage, and gradually opening out a narrow advantage.
Despite driving his heart out, MRF Tyres driver Warren admitted he was powerless to match his Top Run Racing rival on the day’s fast, hard-packed stages, which were run in dry conditions.
Thanks to his third place overall and Group N runner-up result, Warren remains in contention for the APRC Production class title. However, to secure it he will need to win Group N on the final round in Thailand, lead the category at the end of each of the rally’s legs, and rely on Caldarola doing worse than finishing second on each count.
Ready to pounce if either of the Group N drivers ahead struck trouble, New Zealander Reece Jones continued his storming leg two form on Monday, winning two stages outright, and securing second-fastest time overall for the leg behind the rally winner.
Regaining confidence after struggling in leg two’s damp conditions, Englishman John Lloyd had a solid day behind the wheel, coming home fifth overall behind Jones.
Sixth overall honours went to Shaoguan driver Hua Qingxian, who has been impressive all rally in his Lancer Evo 6. One place behind, husband-and-wife pairing Wen Fan and Zhou Li were delighted to wrap up the Chinese Group N championship with their result.
Chan Chi Wah, Ren Zhigup and Cai Ming completed the top ten. The other noteworthy finisher was VW Polo driver Wang Rui, who scooped the Chinese 1600cc championship title with a fine drive to 12th overall.
The APRC continues with the Rally of Thailand at the end of November.
China Rally Final Results
1 Karamjit Singh (Malaysia) Proton Pert 3h25m40.9s
2 Nico Caldarola (Italy) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 +4m44.5s
3 Stuart Warren (NZ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 +4m53.6s
4 Reece Jones (NZ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6 +5m27.5s
5 John Lloyd (UK) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 +14m15.9s
6 Hua Qingxian (China) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 +20m40.1s
7 Wen Fan (China) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5 +21m41.0s
8 Chan Chi Wah (China) Subaru Impreza WRX +22m23.1s
9 Ren Zhiguo (China) Subaru Impreza WRX +23m32.2ss
10 Cai Ming (China) Subaru Impreza WRX +24m44.4s
Asia-Pacfic Rally Championship Standings After 5 of 6 rounds
APRC Overall Standings
1 Singh 64pts
2 Caldarola 35pts
3 Bourne 24pts
4= Warren & Jones 21pts
6 Mazlan 14pts
1 Mitsubishi 69pts
2 Proton 64pts
3 Subaru 32pts
4 Hyundai 14 pts
APRC Co-drivers 1 Oh 64pts
2 Agnese 35pts
3 Stacey 24pts
4= D. Judd & J. Judd 21pts
6 Freeman 14pts
APRC Group N
1 Caldarola 65pts
2 Warren 51pts
3 Jones 31pts
4 Cavenagh 13pts
5 Leyraud 11pts
6 Bourne 6pts
1 Tajima 31pts