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Singh closes in on second title of the year

Jubilant Malaysian duo, Karamjit Singh and Allen Oh, prepare to head Down Under for the final round of the 2002 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship in Australia. Leaving the China Rally celebrations behind, where they were crowned overall Asia Pacific Champions for the second year running, Karam and Allen now head to the Telstra Rally Australia (October 31 – November 3) with added confidence in their ability as they attempt to win their second major rally title of the year.

After two historical wins in Cyprus and on the Safari Rally this year and podium finishes in Argentina and Finland, Production Car World Championship leaders Karam and Allen, in their Gp N Proton PERT, are one of only three contenders that are still able to take the title.

Based in Perth, the capital of Western Australia, the Telstra Rally Australia is the darling of the rally season. Superb organisation provides a hassle free event for teams and drivers alike and some of the best viewing opportunities in the world in the form of the spectacular Langley Park and SOCTIO complexes act as a magnet for spectators in their thousands.

It isn’t all plain sailing for the drivers, however, as the sun-baked forest roads of Western Australia provide a somewhat unique challenge. A loose covering of ball-bearing like stones blanket the surface of the gravel roads hiding a more solid base underneath. This makes them extremely slippery and for Rally Australia debutants it can give the impression of driving on marbles.

Karam has contested Rally Australia twice before, in 1994 and 1996, and it is with the added confidence of having already taken his first title this year that he looks forward to returning to the Australia outback.

Karam comments: “After the disappointment of retiring on the first leg in New Zealand we were even more determined to go to Australia and give it our all, but clinching the Asia Pacific Championship with one round left to go is fantastic and it has given us that little bit extra. It’s a fantastic boost and we’re now in the best frame of mind to tackle our final WRC event of the year.

“We’ve now done what we set out to do and retained our Asia Pacific Championship title, now we have to concentrate on making sure we take our first title in the WRC. To have such a good Asia Pacific victory in China was brilliant and definitely gives us a great deal of added confidence going to Australia. I have competed there twice before, the last time was in 1996 and a lot has changed since then, but the roads are good and we know we can push hard there and go all out for the win and hopefully our second title of the year.”

Leg 1 begins on Thursday 31 October with a crowd pleasing super-special stage at Langley Park overlooking the Swan River in Perth. Two cars will race head to head around a purpose built figure of eight track to the delight of the fans, reported to have reached well over 15,000 in the past! Continuing the following day (Friday 1 November) Leg 1 heads south to the forest roads around Dwellingup and Harvey for seven special stages including the longest of the event, the 38.93km Stirling East stage which for the first time will be run in reverse, before the day rounds off with another blast around the Langley Park super-special, completing all 135.68kms.

The second leg provides another long day of competition as teams leave Perth at 07.00 to head east to the forest roads of Mundaring. Based around a new service park at Chidlow, competitors will face 147.27kms and 11 special stages including the spectacular Muresk and York Railway stages. Again the day finishes with a final run around the Langley Park super-special before entering Parc Ferme in Perth at 20.41.

The final and shortest leg of the rally heads south east to the dramatic SOCTIO plantation near North Banister for a final four stages and 105.69 competitive kilometres.