As expected Malaysian driver Karmjit Singh is the 2001 Asia Pacific Rally Champion taking the overall title with 2nd place in the Rally of Thailand, held near Pattaya. Having already secured the APRC Group N title with a similar finish in China, Singh came to Thailand needing just 3 points to secure the overall championship title from arch rival Italian Nico Caldarola. By the end of leg 2 the championship was decided and Singh and the EON Motorsports team could celebrate "I'm very happy to win and very relieved - now I can relax and have some fun in tomorrows final leg". Singh's approach all through the championship has been totally focused on gaining points in every round - if that meant coming second to Caldarola it didn't matter. "My notes are safety notes - I only go as fast as I have to" said Singh "although I was disappointed to lose out to Nico in China by only 2.5 seconds. I really tried to win there". Singh did win in Malaysia - his first win in his home event - after 13 years of trying. Allen Oh, co-driver for Singh won the co-drivers title, just reward for many years being 'the force' behind Singh. "Allen's been like a father to me - I owe so much to him' said Singh after his Malaysia win.
For Italian Nico Caldarola the season has ended on a high note with two consecutive wins in China and Thailand. Very different from earlier in the season - two crashes in two events. "After my second crash in Rotorua I nearly decided to stop - but thankfully I didn't - winning the last two events is fantastic for me and the Top Run team ". Caldarola's win in China is particularly special - his first international win and memorable for the fight on the final day that went to the very last stage.
Other drivers to complete and qualify for the championship include Englishman John Lloyd who started the season very cautiously but by China and Thailand had adopted a much more aggressive approach. Lloyd's high came with 4th place overall in Malaysia and he ran in 3rd position in China until steering problems dropped him down the order to 5th. Lloyds team-mate for part of the season was kiwi Brian Green having his first experience of rallying in Asia and a best place of 4th overall in China. Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima ran a Suzuki Ignis in the Super 1600 class and a first in class in China and several leg finishes were enough to secure him the Super 1600 title.
This year's championship had five different drivers win an event outright, although apart from Singh and Caldarola, none qualified for points due to not competing in both a Pacific and Asian round. Jean-Louis Leyraud proved local knowledge and experience was what was need over the fast but tricky New Caledonian roads, New Zealander Bruce Herbert won the Rotorua round that saw the return of the famous Motu stage and last year's champion Possum Bourne easily won the Canberra round.
Singh's team-mate Jimmy Low competed in two rounds and set many fastest times, Chinese driver Chan Chi Wah proved he could foot it with the APRC regulars with 3rd in China, and after 3rd place overall in Canberra lets hope Australian Cody Crocker gets to do more rounds next year.
As the teams left the final round in Thailand talk was already about 2002. The inclusion of a round in Hokkaido Japan will be a huge bonus to the championship and already there is evidence of interest from Japanese teams.
Karamjit Singh is confirmed to defend his APRC title in a Group A car Proton, Possum Bourne in a WRC Subaru a possible returnee, plus rumours abound over the possible appearance of a WRC Ford Focus. Nico Caldarola may appear with a Top Run team-mate (driver unknown) and a three car team run by Neil Allport Motorsport for John Lloyd, Brian Green, and Kenyan Alistair Caven who was on the pace in Thailand is likely.
One major change to the regulations for the 2002 championbship is the requirement for drivers and teams to register for the championship - this must be done by the 2nd round in New Caledonia. In addition to qualify for overall points two rounds in the Pacific and two rounds in Asia must be started.
Italian driver Nico Caldarola has won Rally Thailand - the final round of the 2001 Asia Pacific Rally Championship, beating new champion Karamjit Singh by 25 seconds.
In finishing second, Proton driver Singh won the overall Asia Pacific Rally Championship title for the first time - adding to his Group N title won in China.
Singh pushed hard on the final day but eventually opted for a safe second place when SS17 was cancelled. Singh's EON Motorsport team-mate Jimmy Low was third.
For Caldarola two wins in two events makes up for the disastrous start to his season - two crashes in two events: "After my second crash in Rotorua I nearly decided to stop - but thankfully I didn't - winning the last two events is fantastic for me and the Top Run team."
Karamjit's The Champion
Malaysian Proton driver Karamjit Singh is the 2001 Asia Pacific Rally Champion after scoring enough points on Leg 2 of Rally Thailand - the final round - to put the championship out of reach of arch rival Nico Caldarola.
However Mitsubishi driver Caldarola looks like he's on his way to his 2nd win in a row, holding a 38-second lead over Singh going into Sunday's third and final leg.
Singh was relieved to finally clinch the title and says that tomorrow "I'm going to enjoy myself, but I think Nico is a little far ahead to catch - so 2nd will be fine."
Singh's team-mate Jimmy Low has climbed back to 3rd place, continuing to be the pacesetter after a long delay with punctures on Day 1. Fourth is top Thai driver Surarat Prapassorn, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer.
Several drivers crashed out today including team-mates John Lloyd and Alistair Cavenagh. Kenyan Cavenagh was the first to go - caught out with the fast and slippery roads and landing six metres down a bank.
Lloyd had been setting very fast times but hit a ditch at full speed and damaged his Lancer's front suspension. Both drivers will restart tomorrow's final leg.
After leg one of the Rally of Thailand, the Asia Pacific Rally Championship hangs in the balance - with Malaysian driver Karamjit Singh poised to take the title.
After today's 1st leg he needs just one more point. However Italian Nico Caldarola drove his heart out, to take maximum points and keep his title chances alive - just. Singh had shock absorber problems early in the leg and a drive-to-survive resulted in a 30-second deficit to Caldarola at the midday regroup. Singh then pulled back 11 seconds in the afternoon stages and now lies 19 seconds behind Caldarola. Both drivers are being shadowed by a newcomer to the series Kenyan driver Alistair Cavenagh, revelling in the fast and slippery stages and lying third, 38 seconds behind leader Caldarola.
Singh's Proton team-mate Jimmy Low set many fastest stage times today, enjoying the speed of stages, but a double puncture on SS3 lost him 2.5 minutes. English driver John Lloyd is a further 20 seconds back after a huge 5th gear spin.
Drivers from Malaysia, Italy, Kenya, England, Germany and Thailand are amongst the teams that started the 2001 Rally of Thailand from Pattaya Beach on Friday 30 November.
Tajima takes the Super 1600 Title
"Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima wrapped up the Super 1600 class in China with his Suzuki Ignis taking the honours. Accompanied by Julia Rabbett, Tajima has campaigned the Ignis in the APRC to prepare it for competition in the WRC Super 1600 class in 2002".
Caldarola wins Rally of China
Italian driver Nico Caldarola won the 2001 Rally of China by 2.4 seconds from Malaysias Karamjit Singh. Caldarola, with co-driver Dario D'esposito and driving a Mitsubishi Lancer, won all three legs of the event and going in to the final leg had a 20 second buffer over his Asia-Pacific rival. But with fuel problems striking the Top Run Lancer and Singh in fighting mood the last stages were a tense battle between the two drivers. Caldarola's victory in China was matched by Singh wrapping up the Group N 2001 Asia Pacific Rally Championship for Malaysian manufacturer Proton.
China's driver Chan Chi Wah had another solid driver for overall 3rd place and Brian Green from New Zealand was 4th, both driving Mitsubishi Lancers. After a promising early run and setting several quick stage times UK's John Lloyd ended up 5th overall after steering problems on Leg 2. The Super 1600 class was won by Monster Tajima in the Suzuki Ignis after a good run and 6th place.
The overall drivers and manufacturers championship remains to be settled at the final round in Thailand 1-2 December.
Italian driver Nico Caldarola increased his lead over Karamjit Singh to 18.9 seconds. Chinese driver Chan Chi Wah moved into 3rd place after John Lloyd dropped to 10th place with steering problems. Brian Green from New Zealand retains 4th spot. Nubohiro Tajima is having a good event in his Super 1600 class Suzuki and is currently 8th overall and 1st in class. (Nico Caldarola photo on right).
Italian Nico Caldaraola leads the event by 1.5 seconds from Malaysia's Karamjit Singh. John Lloyd is 3rd, Brian Green 4th and Caan Chi Wah 5th...
(Chan Chi Wah photo on right).
2001 Rally Of Malaysia
Updated: 16 SEP 01
RALLY OF MALAYSIA in 2001 saw the event moved to a new home – the historic city of Melaka.
A series of stages not too far from the city were used in
different combinations and with the weather throwing tropical rain at the
roads, the scene was set for a great test of endurance, patience and the
right pace. Karmjit Singh had to be the favourite for an outright win being
on home-ground, but after the first leg held in treacherously slippery
conditions he found himself 1.20seconds behind his team-mate Jimmy Low,
after making the wrong tyre choice. “It was completely my fault”, admitted
Singh and even though Low checked out of the final service park late to give
Singh back his lead the organisers did not receive the late check-out in
time and seeded Low first on the road for the 2nd leg. Italian driver Nico
Caldarola was third in his Mitsubishi ahead of the nimble Super 1600 Suzuki
Ignis driven by Japanese driver Monster Tajoima and in 5th was UK’s John
Lloyd in a Mitsubishi. New Zealand’s Brian Green was the only casualty of
the day sliding off in the muddy conditions, but would resume the next day
under the Super Rally rules.
Day two was brighter but conditions still called for mud tyres. Taking no
chances on time penalties Singh put the hammer-down and was soon galloping
away in his Proton Pert. At the end of the day he held a three-minute lead
over team-mate Low. Third-paced Caldarola had settled into a consistent pace
but was hampered by a mis-firing engine that the Top Run crew could find no
reason for, other than possible bad fuel. After a great run Tajima’ Suzuki
suffered a problem with an engine sensor that forced his retirement from a
good 4th place allowing Lloyd to move up. Lloyd was lucky to be there after
a rare off nearly finished his event, but luckily team-mate Green was able
to tow the Englishmen back on the road. A good run from local Gunasaleen
Rajoo in his Proton Satria had him in 5th place although looking shakey with gearbox problems forcing him to ‘drive for a finish’. The most spectacular driver of the day had to be local hot-shot Rozali Abdullah in the EON Motorsport Proton Wira 1.8 – an Asian driver to watch.
The crews left Melaka before dawn on Day 3, but the sun was definitely
rising as the cars started the first of six stages for the final day. There
were no major dramas or changes in position –other than the final stage
being cancelled for safety reasons – and so Singh and co-driver Allen Oh
headed back to Melaka to celebrate their first win on their home event.
“After 13 years of trying and several times leading, but always ending up
2nd or worse - we finally did it”. The prize giving ceremony held later that night was all Karamjit’s as he showed everyone how to celebrate,
entertaining the crowd with a great Indian Karoke number and then blasting
everyone with his favorite music – ‘Smoke on the water’ and other 70’s rock!
The day after the Rally of Malaysia finished, Singh’s EON Motorsports team
took delivery of their new Group A car. However they will compete in October’s Rally of China with the Group N Proton as it is still mathematically possible for Caldarola to take the Group N championship.
Parker ENZED International Rally of Rotorua
Herbert Wins Rally of Rotorua
Palmerston's Bruce Herbert has handed out three
of the best to his competition with a masterful display at the Parker ENZED
Rally of Rotorua today.
Having won the previous two legs contested over
the past two days Herbert continued his march today by taking out leg three and the overall honours. The win is more than significant for Herbert
because it not only provisionally elevates him to sixth place in the New Zealand Championship but it gives him the outright lead in the six round Asia Pacific Championship.
Pukekohe's Possum Bourne was forced to withdraw
last night with turbo failure and this has meant that he stays in
third place in the Asia Pacific Championship. Auckland's Andrew Hawkeswood finished in second place overall 1 minute 57.7 seconds behind Herbert. He charged harder today but could not claw back any time on Herbert.
Palmerston North's Geof Argyle finished third
overall at 3 minutes 17.1 seconds behind Herbert. Malaysia's Karamjit Singh was overtaken for fourth overall and Group N honours on the final stage by Northland's Reece Jones, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6. Singh still improves his Asia Pacific standings from sixth to third equal with Possum Bourne.
Rally of New Caledonia
2001 Rally of New Caledonia - Local driver Jean-Louis Leyraud driving a
Subaru won his home event using all his years of experience to master the
Malaysia's Karamjit Singh in a Proton Pert was 2nd after a solid drive. Nico Caldarola crashed heavily while leading the event and Monster Tajima retired with a broken gearbox, although by winning two of the three legs he did pick up Super 1600 bonus points.
The Asia Pacific Rally Championship is now lead by Leyraud (Subaru) on 18 points, followed by Possum Bourne (Subaru) 15 points.
Winning co-driver Robb Scott's version of Rally of New
"New Caledonia belied its reputation for rough terrain in June’s second
round of the 2001 FIA Asia/Pacific Rally Championship. Visiting crews were greeted with smooth, flowing roads on a variety of surfaces, a far cry from the legendary car-breaking tests of the Safaris of yesteryear.
Held primarily in the Province du Sud, the field contested the first two legs on rural gravel roads to the north of Noumea, with the final day concentrating on the slippery bauxite tracks of the far south.
Despite their inexperience at international level, the organising committee ran a slick event, culminating each evening with a superspecial at the Noumea Hippodrome in front of a boisterous crowd.
Two particular features gave the Rallye de Nouvelle-Caledonie its own
particular character. Many of the stages were interspersed with dry
watercourses, or “radier” which could tear the suspension (or the hearts !) out of the unwary if encountered at pace. The second was the 28 km
Katrikoin stage on leg #2. This never-ending series of hairpins in dense
bush was won at an average speed of only 60 kmh - giving rise to the remark “we’ve got two Monsters here - Katrikoin and (visiting Suzuki pilote) Tajima”.
Day One was dominated by the Nico Caldarola/Nicola Arena Gp N Mitsubishi.
The Italian pairing finished the leg with a thirty second lead and every
indication that the same would continue for the ensuing two days. However, under pressure to hold a diminishing lead, their Lancer crashed heavily early on Day Two, leaving the pair with mild neck and rib injuries.
The fight continued for the rest of the event with two superbly matched
teams vying at the front. Malaysian Pert Proton stars Karamjit Singh/Allen Oh launched a series of attacks, right up to the final stage, but were forced to concede defeat to local hero Jean-Louis Leyraud. His thirty years of experience on the island, and a faultless performance from his Prodrive-built Impreza, saw Leyraud and kiwi codriver Rob Scott run out eventual winners by 34 seconds.
2001 Rally of Canberra
Possum Bourne overcame mechanical problems on the third leg of Rally of
Canberra to take his second consecutive win on the event, the opening round of the Asia Pacific Championship.
The New Zealander held a lead of over a minute going into the five stage
final leg, but then on the first stage a broken drive-shaft on the Impreza cost time and a big spin on the next saw him drop 79 seconds to the fastest man, Neal Bates.
The Toyota driver was fastest on both the opening stages of the last day,
and moved into second ahead of Cody Crocker who won the Group N category
with Italian Nico Caldarola second. Malaysian Karamjit Singh had problems
through the event with punctures and brakes, but 6th overall and 4th in
Other APRC contenders John Lloyd from the UK finished in 12th position in a Mitsubishi Lancer while Monster Tajima had a DNF in the new Suzuki Ignis Super 1600, however he completed the final leg for testing purposes.
The Asia Pacific Rally Championship moves to the beautiful tropical island of New Caledonia for the 2nd round 1-3 June.
Rally of Caledonia website: http://www.rallye-nc.com