Karamjit Singh made history today by becoming the first Malaysian driver to be crowned Production Car World Rally Champion*. Claiming a strong third position and four championship winning points on the final leg of the Telstra Rally Australia means that Karam and co-driver Allen Oh take their first World Championship title with a total of 32 points. A perfect end to a perfect year, today’s result also makes the Malaysian duo the first drivers to win both the FIA Asia Pacifc Rally Championship as well as the FIA Production Car World Rally title in the same year.
Stormy weather, heavy rain and low temperatures may have hampered the first two Legs of the 2002 Telstra Rally Australia, but this morning gave a different picture as beautiful sunny skies accompanied crews as they travelled south-east to the SOTICO pine plantation for four final tests. With Legs 1 and 2 of the event claiming the retirement of 23 competitors 46 crews prepared themselves for the remaining 105.69 competitive kilometres of Leg 3, a day of crowd pleasing action over the famous Bunnings jumps and numerous watersplashes, providing spectators with some of the best viewing opportunities seen anywhere in the World Championship.
Despite fine weather and dry conditions today’s four stages were to prove extremely demanding, fast, long, tree lined straights, slippery loose gravel conditions and harsh rocky terrain leaving very little margin for error.
After a controlled and tactical drive yesterday to secure a strong third position Karam kept his focus this morning to keep rival Ramon Ferreyros firmly in check. The plan for the today had been to stay as close as possible to the Peruvian driver and match his pace and this he did to perfection. On the opening test, the 5.63km Bannister central, a demanding stage run on loose marble like gravel, Karam was less than a second off Ferreyros’ pace.
Testimony to the great experience and maturity of the newly crowned 2002 Asia Pacific Champion, a determined drive through SS22 and SS23, the long 34.57km Bannister West stage, saw Karam shadow Ferreyros to stay within a second of his time to maintain a comfortable 18 second lead over the Peruvian driver.
Knowing that all he had to do was hold on to position, a mixture of tension and excitement built in service as Karam and Allen made their way to the final 36.84km Bannister North stage. All fears set aside the invincible duo drove faultlessly through the final long demanding test to take their first Production Car World Rally Championship, a remarkable achievement considering it was at their first attempt.
A truly elated Singh comments: “I am absolutely over the moon, it’s a truly fantastic result for us and an absolutely amazing feeling. I knew yesterday when (Kristian) Sohlberg went out that it was within our reach we just had to keep going. I was really nervous today but all we had to do was maintain position and keep Ramon (Ferreyros) behind us. I am the first Asian driver to win the Production Car World Rally Championship and that makes me feel very proud. To win both the Asia Pacific Championship and the Production Car World Rally Championship in one year is a dream for us and a truly fantastic result for the whole team.”
Final 2002 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship standings:
1) Karamjit Singh 32pts
2) Kristian Sohlberg 26pts
3) Ramon Ferreyros 23pts
4) Toshihiro Arai 22pts
5) Alex Fiorio 22pts
6) Gustavo Trelles 12pts
*Subject to final FIA confirmation