Karamjit Singh has been associated with Proton for much of his rallying career, having piloted cars bearing the brand’s logo since the 1990s. He has since won six championships at the Asia Pacific level as well as being the first Asian driver to win the FIA Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) in 2002.

Recently, the ‘Flying Sikh’ secured his 17th championship title at age 60, winning the top prize in the 2022 Malaysian National Rally Championship (MNRC). However, at the MRNC awards ceremony held on Sunday (January 15, 2023), Karamjit said he would not continue to compete in Proton for this year’s MNRC, and would instead switch to a Perodua Myvi.

Motorsport is expensive, and according to him, ever since Proton’s strategic partnership with Geely was established in 2017, the local carmaker’s racing division – Proton R3 – has not receive any (budget) allocation for rally racing.

The last time Karamjit drove for Proton R3 was in 2015, where he got behind the wheel of a front-wheel drive Satrio Neo. In that car, he won in the 2WD category of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) in 2011 and 2012, while also clinching the 2WD category title in the Malaysian Rally Championship (MRC) from 2013 to 2015.

Karamjit added that Proton R3 had already built an Iriz with a 1.6 litre turbo engine for him in 2016, but the vehicle has not been used for competition and remains in Shah Alam, despite being fully prepared. As such, he purchased a Gen2 4WD Turbo in 2017 that he used for a few years, spending approximately RM500,000 to ready the car for local and overseas competitions. The car was previously used by the Felda Rally Team that debuted in 2007, and was driven by Saladin Mazlan then.

While it may feature a 4G63T 2.0 litre turbo engine and all-wheel drive system lifted from a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI, the Gen2 rally car is now over 15 years old, requiring Karamjit to find a newer and more competitive machine.

Karamjit said he had attempted to engage with Proton to build a competitive rally car, but he did not get a response. This led to his decision to switch to the third-generation Myvi, which will be built from the ground up with his team – Cisco Racing – for the 2023 MRNC season.

“I’ve always been a fan of Proton. From 1988 until now, I have only driven Proton cars. But unfortunately, we did not receive support from Proton. Since 2017, I bought this car (Gen2) and have spent more than RM500,000 of my own money. Even my EPF money is all gone,” Karamjit said at the MRNC awards ceremony.

He added that his team is now looking for sponsorships to develop a new car, and the boss of the Cisco Racing team – Rabin Nijhar – said that it was time to forget about Proton and switch to Perodua. “It’s a shame change because I am a Proton fan. But what can I do; they did not support us, so we have to change brands,” said Karamjit.

There were plans to drive the Iriz R5 built by Mellors Elliot Motorsport (MEM) from the United Kingdom, but the high costs involved made this very unrealistic. At the very best offer, the WRC-ready car retailed for RM900,000, and that’s without any spare parts. A complete package with spares would exceed RM1.5 million to compete in one year, and if it was also used the compete in every round of the APRC, the final bill can hit RM4 million.

Rabin commented that the final specifications of the Myvi-based rally car aren’t finalised just yet, but the idea is to have it meet AP4 regulations. Even so, the car will not be a true AP4 rally car homologated by the FIA, as the initial mission is to partake in the local MNRC. For APRC races outsides the country like in Indonesia, the team Cisco Racing will use a Skoda rally car from abroad that is cheaper in terms of logistics.

JV Motorsport Perodua Myvi G3 at 2022 Sepang S1K

Once again, motorsport is expensive, and Karamjit said the development cost of his upcoming Myvi rally car will require at least RM500,000. The 2.0 litre turbo engine and an all-wheel drive system planned for it will likely be sourced from other brands like Mitsubishi or Toyota, with the latter being a higher possibility given Perodua’s close association with Toyota, the parent company of Daihatsu.

It’s worth saying this is Cisco Racing’s own project, and the team expects the car to be ready in about three months before round one of the 2023 MNRC in June. As mentioned, the team is looking for sponsors and says it will meet with Perodua to present its concept in hopes of being sponsored.

Perodua in the world of rallying isn’t new, as there was the Perodua Castrol Rally Team led by Gray Chua. The team fielded machines such as the Kancil 4WD Turbo and Kelisa 4WD Turbo, which competed against Karamjit that represented Proton PERT (Petronas-EON Racing Team). There was also the Myvi 4WD Turbo based on the first-generation model, which was driven by Kan Chee Hong in 2006.

GALLERY: Proton Gen2 4WD Turbo driven by Karamjit Singh