Egg on my face, humble pie, all that jazz…

A while ago I wrote a letter to Bob Lutz.  A Rallying Call is what I called it.  In that post I berated Saab for not having a rally presence and even suggested that Per Eklund should be dragged out of his retirement home to kit-up a 9-7x for the Paris – Dakar Rally.

Now, whilst I believe the Paris – Dakar might still be a good idea, it turns out that there’s a little more than silence when it comes to Saab rallying.  Not only is Per Eklund not sitting around counting his trophies in a nice Scandinavian chalet, he is building another Saab for the European RallyCross Championship starting next month (May) in France.

Courtesy of the fantastic gents of Saab.se, I’ve got Per’s email address, so i’ll be doing my level best to get some inside info on all that’s happening leading up to the start of the Championship.

In the meantime, here’s some pictures (now removed) and you can click on the link for the official Saab press release relating to Per’s car for 2005:  A 9-3 Aero Sport Sedan.

Ongoing co-operation for Saab, Clarion and Per Eklund

Per Eklund, Saab and Clarion Team Europe will continue their
co-operation in Rallycross next year when Per will compete for the first time a
new Saab 9-3 Aero Sport Sedan.

As Saab homologates its 9-3 Sport Sedan for competition, it
is continuing its co-operation with the Swedish rallycross driver Per Eklund
and his team, Clarion Team Europe. That means next year the reigning Swedish
champion will campaign an extreme version of the Saab 9-3 Aero Sport Sedan,
both in the Swedish and in the European Rallycross Championships.

�All the indications suggest that the car will turn out to
be highly competitive,� asserts Bj�rn Bergl�f, motor-sport co-ordinator at Saab
Automobile in Trollh�ttan. He goes on: �Among other things, the regulation
minimum weight of rallycross cars is to be raised from 1,120 to 1,200 kilos, which is an advantage for Per
since his car has been too heavy this season in comparison to the WRC cars it
competes with.�

Saab will assist Per Eklund’s team in the building of
competition bodyshells, while the final adjustments to Eklund’s in-house
chassis design, engine and transmission will be handled entirely by the Arvika-based
team.

Saab stresses the importance of good construction. �Building
a racing bodyshell is always an engineering challenge of the highest order. Materials
and technical solutions must be matched,� says Bj�rn Bergl�f. The special
challenge, as he sees it, will be the work of manufacturing many body
components in carbon fiber and other materials that are relatively new in the
context of the automotive industry.

�The competition car is being built around an original Saab 9-3
body, butmodified with carbon-fiber parts. Some items will be specially
designed by the team expressly to suit four-wheel drive.�

�The Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan is ideal for competition use,� says
Per Eklund. �The basic design of the car is decidedly sporty, with a body
possessing great torsional rigidity. We ourselves work with technical solutions
and materials that come very close to Formula 1 standards, so this car has
every prospect of being highly competitive.�

So a great engineering challenge, in combination with V�rmland
cunning, lies in the task of designing and building a new competition car
within the limits laid down for rallycross’s heavyweight class, Division 1.

April 2005 should see the first fruits of the team’s work, when Per
Eklund, as reigning champion, takes the starting line with his new Saab 9-3 Aero
Sport Sedan. At that point, his 1997 Swedish Championship and his 1999 European
Championship will be pass into history, together with his previous car.

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