Rally the troops

Publishing this picture the other day got a few reactions in comments.

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photo (c) www.jkdesign.as

…..Nice to see a Saab being driven with feeling…..

….Saab should offer a rally version of the 9-3. I bet that would sell a lot….

…..It would probably not sell in large numbers but imagine the prestige effect it would bring (back) to Saab in terms of its rally heritage……

…..Without a doubt this is one of the things Saab should be pushing forward and making available in their line up. Not just the 9-3 but the 9-5 as well. 4 wheel drive, flat out sports models to sit bang at the top of the range and add something special to the rest of the model range……

It’s amazing how racing at the higher levels can fire up the imaginations of your enthusiasts. What’s better than seeing a car just like yours getting flung around trails at high speeds (except taking it for a fling yourself)?

When I first started this weblog, I wrote a post entitled A Rallying Call where I basically called for Saab to get back into some sort of racing program. Now, I know that they have some involvement with Per Eklund’s effort in the European and Swedish Championships, but what I’m talking about here is a factory team – cranking out some high-stress horsepower endurance machines.

My initial call was for a 9-7x to be prepared and then raced in the Paris-Dakar rally. This may seem a bit niave or unrealistic, but what better testimony to the SUV’s ability could there be than to take on one of the toughtest races in the world. I reckon there’d be major kudos just for finishing.

Now we have the 9-7x in the range. OK, it’s not a genuine original Saab, but here’s my idea. Send one of these off to Trollhattan and let the fellas there unleash some Swedish know-how on this delicate little flower. Drag Per Eklund out whatever retirement village he’s lounging in at the moment and tap his brain for the best way to turn this car into a Paris-Dakar rally winner. (addendum: I didn’t know Per was still quite active when I wrote this – the perils of pulling out old posts written in the glow of un-knowing youth) Per is a proven winner, driving for years in various Saabs and most recently taking his 800hp 9-3 to the top of the Pike’s Peak race (why this wasn’t publicised more is, again, beyond my comprehension).

Other big SUV’s enter the Paris-Dakar. Mercedes, Renault, Citroen, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Toyota and the arch-nemesis, BMW were all entered this year. There’s even a KIA in there for goodness sakes!! Take a look at the entrants list – not a GM marque among them. There is NO reason why Saab shouldn’t get a piece of this action. Bill – think of the cred this could build for the brand. Both for Saab globally and for GM locally in the US. There is no tougher test in the world for a supposedly tough motor vehicle.

You know it makes sense.

I still think it makes great sense. The kudos all these manufacturers get from successfully running a rally team is major marketing cheddar for the company, and there’s few marques with the pedigree or the need for a bit of success like Saab.

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And what better option is there than the 9-7x? Finish the race and you’ve got marketing fodder for a year. You can shut up some of the doubters and gain a whole new dose of acceptance for a model that’s winning some and disaffecting others.

Providing the vehicle’s good enough to finish the race then there’s no losing scenario here that I can see.

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5 Comments

  1. Maybe I shouldn’t comment on this as I’m not too strong on the facts, but doesn’t the World Rally Championship have some strict engine size rules? I think that the max engine displacement limit is 2.0 liters and all the cars are AWD. There isn’t a current model SAAB that could compete, except maybe the 9-2X, but I’m sure that Subaru wouldn’t allow that.

    The 9-3 is much too big and heavy to modify into a WRC racecar, even if they heavily modified it, I think.

    Now, if they come out with a 9-1X Sonett coupe maybe that would be a good WRC entry!

  2. Gripen, you’re correct. The Paris Dakar is a differnet kettle of fish, however, and is run in all sorts of different classes. If the 9-7x was good enough, it’d be interesting to see it compete.

  3. Are heavy modifications allowed in Paris-Dakar? I doubt a stock 9-7X would make it more than 10 miles. Even if the 9-7X were successful in such a rally wouldn’t it be more likely GM would get the credit than SAAB? We’re not the only ones who know that the 9-7X is a “SAABified” Chevy Trailblazer.

  4. “Providing the vehicle’s good enough to finish the race then there’s no losing scenario here that I can see.”

    Providing the vehicle’s good enough to finish the race. Maybe this is what GM is afraid of. What would be more embarassing than proving that they’re incapable of building a quality vehicle on a Chevy platform?
    I sincerely hope that they did a better job than that, but they may know something we don’t.

    Another option would be to hit it hard with the new 9-5 or new 9-2x (or both, now that the American rallies have 2wd and 4wd championships) to bring full attention to the new lineup. Even better, race all of the lineup in one way or another. Do something no one else does. Just imagine the promo material for that:
    “At Saab, we test our vehicles in the coldest, most humid conditions on the face of the earth… But because that’s not the only place Saab drivers take their cars, we also test them in more ‘practical’ locations:

    Saab 9-3: 2nd Place Race to the Clouds Pike’s Peak Hill Climb
    Saab 9-5: United States Rally Champion–Open 2wd
    Saab 9-2x: United States Rally Champion–Open 4wd
    Saab 9-7x: 2nd Place World Rally Championship

    Still think your car is reliable?”
    🙂

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