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Karam secures joint championship lead

Reigning champions Karamjit Singh and Allen Oh have taken joint lead of the 2003 Production Car World Rally Championship today after a strong and determined drive on the Propecia Rally New Zealand. On what has been a rally of tactics due to changeable conditions, the Malaysian duo safely brought their Gp N Proton PERT home to finish a strong sixth, securing three valuable championship points taking them to the top of the leader board.

With Legs 1 and 2 of the event claiming the retirement of 29 competitors, 51 crews prepared themselves for the remaining 113.81 competitive kilometres of Leg 3 this morning. Leaving the sunny confines of Auckland behind, teams were greeted by thick fog as they travelled 75kms south of the city to the Te Kauwhata service park for some classic New Zealand rally stages. By the start of SS17 it had however lifted signifying another bright and sunny day of competition lay ahead.

Set around Te Akau on the west coast, this morning’s opening two stages, run on typical New Zealand powdery loose gravel, combined open fast flowing roads with tricky winding sections demanding maximum commitment to beat the clocks. Focused on improving position Karam stormed though Te Akau South Reverse (SS17) keeping those in front firmly in sight. A good charge through SS18 then saw Karam take nearly 10 second off Ramon Ferreyros narrowing the gap to fifth position to 25.3 seconds.

Karam continued to push hard throughout this afternoon’s four stages, run on the plantation roads of the Maramarua Forest to the south east of Auckland. In search of fifth position he took another 4.7 seconds off Ferreyros on SS19.

With just over 20.6 seconds separating them and the end of the rally rapidly approaching Karam sensibly decided not to risk losing position and kept a fast consistent pace through the three remaining stages of the day. Finishing in sixth position he takes three valuable points and joint lead of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship.

Karam said: “I’m really happy to get three points from this rally. It’s been very tough and we’ve had to push really hard everyday. To finish sixth is a good result for us considering that all of the cars in front of us are latest generation rally cars which seemed to really suit this rally. We are the first of the others so I’m really pleased with that.

“We pushed as hard as we could within the limit throughout the entire rally. I don’t think we could have gone any faster without going off the road. Tyre wear was very critical here and changeable conditions made it difficult to predict which tyres would be best to use for different stages. Also all the Production cars are restricted on how many tyres we can use so sometimes we were forced to run stages on used ones. Overall I’m happy with the result, it’s been a tough battle and I’m glad that we have managed to take three points and now jointly lead the championship at this stage.

The next round of the championship takes the team across the globe to South America for another gravel event on the Rally of Argentina, based in Villa Carlos Paz, which runs from May 9-11.