PETALING JAYA: Malaysian rally icon Karamjit Singh will begin today to the tune of his two pre-race pump-up songs.
There’s no race. It’s his 61st birthday, and he’s fired up by Ritchie Blackmore’s rock classics “Hall of the Mountain King” and “The Man on the Silver Mountain”.
In “Hall of the Mountain King”, he’s stirred by the Deep Purple and Rainbow guitarist’s rhetoric, “I am the mountain king, are you not afraid? I am the king!”
One interpretation of “The Man on the Silver Mountain” relates to doing what one wants to do, about calling on inner strength, and about finding higher self.
That captures the spirit of the “Flying Sikh”, who is all pumped up to power on in his sixties.
Like Blackmore’s bamboozling guitar mastery, Karamjit’s wizardry in rallying over 35 years has been franked by consistent elite achievement.
“I’m not done yet,” said Karamjit, alluding to the opening line in “The Man on the Silver Mountain”.
“I’m a wheel, I can roll, you’ll never stop me turning.”
Malaysia’s sportsman of the year in 2002 said speed and rock music kept him and his long-time co-driver Jagdev Singh rocking.
With a combined age of 114 years, the two behemoths of rallying have ruled the sport in an old Proton Gen2.
Sparky Karamjit said his birthday wish was to spark a revival of interest in rallying in Malaysia, to get another dominant car, and to receive “some good luck”.
His longevity in the punishing sport, from the first time he used his father’s Peugeot 404 as a rally car in 1984, has been incredible. His lightning-in-a bottle vitality remains a huge inspiration to Malaysian sport.
On Jan 15, Karamjit was named last year’s overall winner of the Malaysian National Rally Championship (MNRC) together with Jagdev. It was the 17th time he had won the title.
He achieved success not only because of his natural ability and kinetic energy, but because he has graced the sport with the modest and dignified demeanour so lacking in many current sports stars.
Despite his sheer skill and ambition, Karamjit has trodden a difficult path in recent times as commercial interest in rallying has waned.
The drought of corporate sponsorship caused him to spend his own money to keep racing, and he has little left.
The former production car world rally champion currently competes for Cisco Racing whose owner, Rabin Nijhar, is keen for Karamjit to use a Perodua car.
Karamjit said the current trend in rallying at the world level was the use of smaller cars, such as the Myvi, as they were lighter and easier to race.
He said he hoped to use a Perodua car in the new season of the MNRC in June, as well as for the Asia Pacific Rally Championships.
Entrepreneur Nijhar, who created Cisco Racing in 2021 to mark the comeback of Karamjit, dismissed his role as a sponsor.
“While we are committed to supporting Karamjit as a rally racing legend who has brought more than 35 years of glory to Malaysia, we do not view ourselves as sponsors,” he said.
The managing director of security firm Cisco said he has an in-tray bursting with challenging demands, from building a team that reflected his company’s entrepreneurial spirit to operating it as a for-profit commercial entity.
“In order to do this, we are going to develop new revenue streams. Our strategy will be to bring to life a business model that creates valuable experiences for rally enthusiasts.
“We intend to build mechanisms where we activate our fanbase to funnel their purchases through us.
“Whenever our fans are buying their next exotic car, or racing swag, we will be investing in developing ourselves as a digital marketplace,” he said.
He agreed that a tough test, one which may define the success of Cisco Racing, would be seeking partnerships within the automotive markets.
As Nijhar gets to work, he hopes everyone can persevere as a team to emerge triumphant despite the odds.
“Karamjit and Jagdev should receive all-round support because as a nation, we need courage and inspiration,” he said.