That is the question that I am asking. That’s the question Karamjit himself is asking. And I bet almost every single automotive enthusiast who I know will be asking.

Together with his co-driver Allen Oh, Karamjit had won the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) last year, as well as in 2001 and 2002. Because of him, Proton had also snagged the Manufacturer’s title in 2002 and 2004. Karamjit also took the Group N (Production car) titles in 1997, 2000 and 2001. (Source)

Isn’t this a proven track record for success? How come he is unable to get sponsorship from anyone?

Do you need more proof?

Career Highlights:
2004 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Champion
2002 FIA Production Car World Rally Champion
2002 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Champion
2001 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Champion
2001 Group N FIA Asia Pacific Rally Champion
2000 Group N FIA Asia Pacific Rally Champion
1998 Thailand National Rally Champion
1997 Group N FIA Asia Pacific Rally Champion
1990 – 1997 Malaysian Rally Champion

He won the WRC’s Production car championship on his FIRST TRY! He is also the first Asian to win the title.

Karamjit and his Proton PERT

This year, Karamjit Singh drives with co-driver Jagdev Singh in a Proton PERT which is basically a Proton re-label of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7. Karamjit shipped his Proton PERT to New Caledonia in last month in hopes of competing in the rally but was forced to pull out last minute because he could not secure enough sponsors for the event. Even the FIA was understanding in this matter, because they knew Karamjit’s team was facing financial difficulties, they had subsidised the participation fees for the rally. After all, last year’s defending champion had to defend his title right? That was what FIA was thinking. But Karamjit was still short of cash for mechanics and tyres.

Karamjit will not be participating in the current round, Round 3, which is in Rotorua, New Zealand on the 17th and 19th. Round 4 would be in Hokkaido Japan. But guess where is Round 5’s venue? No where else but MALAYSIA! (19-21 August 2005) It would be a shame to see that our own Flying Sikh (Karamjit’s nickname) cannot even compete in his home grounds because he could not secure sponsorship!

This is what happens when you try to remain patriotic. Karamjit had put his faith in being able to get local corporate sponsorship for the 2005 APRC season. Why doesn’t the government step up and help him? They certainly have for other individuals competing in motorsports, who once obtained sponsorship completely disappointed us and vanished from the news. But this is a champion here. Karamjit has put Malaysia on the rallying map. Why not Proton help him? After all, he has Proton’s logos all over his Proton PERT. Proton is definitely cash-rich enough.

There are another 2 Malaysians participating in the APRC with driver Chee Hong Kan and co-driver Bernard Chin U-Min. They are driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII MR but they belong to Wan Yu Rally Team which comes from China, thus they are not a Malaysian team. Karamjit had actually been contemplating to race for an overseas-based factory team this season but he did not, for reasons which I will assume to be patriotism. Bad decision.

It’s not just about defending the APRC title. Even his career is in jeopardy now. FIA APRC’s rules state that he has to finish 6 out of the 8 races, otherwise he could be fined up to USD3000 per race. Last year he got first place for 4 out of the 6 rounds. This time, he can’t even participate in the 6 rounds. He has only been able to get enough money to run 3 rounds this year so far. In addition to the fear of the USD9000 fine (3 remaining races), the FIA could suspend his license. “They can suspend my licence. If I am under suspension, how am I going to earn a living?” said Karamjit.

Karamjit is also participating in the World Rally Championship (WRC) and he managed to get his best finish so far in the last race in New Zealand where he and his co-driver John Bennie finished fifth. Even in the WRC, a world-class event, he has not been able to secure enough sponsorships to enable him to finish his campaign.

Perhaps it’s just that rally isn’t hot in Malaysia as other motorsports such as Formula One. What a pity. I am really really really sad about Karamjit’s predicament.

Now, Karamjit has already had offers from two foreign manufacturer teams for him to drive for them. He is seriously considering the options now since his own country seems uninterested in the fact that he has made Malaysia proud in the international rally circles. Initial discussions with them have already begun.

My first choice will be to continue driving for a Malaysian-backed team. That was the reason for staying with the Petronas Eon Racing Team (PERT) for the last 17 years. But the team will cease operations at the end of the year. Getting sponsors have been the big problem. If there is sponsorship overseas, why should I discard the opportunity?” said Karamjit in an article in The Star.

Malaysia, this is the only really good world champion we have. Please don’t force him to look overseas and make some other country/car manufacturer proud instead of our country. Don’t kill him off.

Vijay Singh suffered a similiar predicament in his golfing career. Now he’s one of the top people in golf, who even dethroned Tiger Woods as the world’s top golfer. Vijay applied for PR here in Malaysia but got rejected. Our Deputy Prime Minister even had the cheek to say “Its fortunate that Vijay Singh was not granted the PR status, otherwise he would not have become the worlds number one golfer. Thats the truth.” WTF?!

Karamjit, I wish you the best of luck in your career.

Peter Jackson, Jimmy Lai, VJ Singh. The common thread linking all three men is that they came from a place with limited opportunity, and they all made their name and fortune by going which offers a better chance for them to realise their full potential, be it film making, publishing or golf. If Jackson has stayed in New Zealand, Lai in Guangdong and Singh in Fiji or Malaysia, they would never have gotten to where they are today. – Singapore Polytechnic E-Zone