Karamjit Consolidates Lead

Power steering failure was all that stood in the way of a clean-sweep of special stage wins for Karamjit Singh on Saturdays second leg of the 2002 Rally of Thailand.

The Malaysian Proton Pert driver had won eight stages in a row including those on Fridays opening leg before the power steering problem struck on the ninth stage. He battled through the 21km test, coming near to collapsing at the effort towards the end, but still managed fourth fastest time.

With the problem rectified, Karamjit quickly re-asserted his dominance, winning the remaining three stages of the day, and extending his overall lead to more than three minutes over second-placed Nico Caldarola.

Caladarola, for his part, moved a further step closer to the biggest championship title of his 20 year career in rallying: The Italian Top Run Racing driver now needs only to cruise to the finish of the rallys third and final leg to be assured of victory in the 2002 Asia-Pacific Production Class.

“Tomorrow could be the slowest days rallying of my life,” he admitted. “But at the same time I must maintain my concentration.”

The Romans only remaining championship rival, Stuart Warren of New Zealand, was already offering his rival a congratulatory handshake at the end of todays second leg.

“My only hope his mathematical,” said the MRF team driver, who was third-fastest over todays stages, and climbed from 18th to 10th overall as a result. “Nico should win the title tomorrow, and he will deserve it.”

Several drivers suffered major disappointment over todays nine stages.

They included Alistair Cavenagh. The former Kenyan champion seemed secure in third place when the prop shaft of his Mitsubishi Lancer broke on the start line of the days penultimate stage. Earlier in the day, Caldarola’s team mate Noberto Cangani crashed heavily, on a deceptive high-speed bend that also claimed two local drivers.

Another Thai driver, Tawatchai Pasomsup, dropped from fourth place after suffering mechanical problems early in the leg. Helped by his demise, and that of Cavenagh, Englishman John Lloyd climbed from fifth to third overall, despite problems along the way.

Provisionally placed fourth at the end of the second leg, Sakchai Hantrakul driver was the best of the locals.

He was followed in the overall standings by New Zealander Reece Jones, whose service crew performed miracles in replacing his gearbox after problems early in the day.

Japanese ace Nobuhiro Tajima lay seventh overall in his Suzuki Ignis Super 1600.

Frenchman Jean-Louis Leyraud was the other Asia-Pacific series driver to finish the leg, and was placed 13th overall. He would have been placed far higher in the standings, but for a string of problems that interrupted his excellent start to the day.