Michael Jordan won six NBA championships in eight years with the Chicago Bulls. If he hadn’t taken a diversion into baseball it might have been eight out of eight – who knows? Air Jordan retired as the king of the sporting world. He’d led the Bulls to the promised Land, watched them falter after his first retirement and then returned to lead them right on back to the pinnacle three more times. Three years after his second retirement, MJ returned once again and played two seasons with the Washington Wizards.
Those two seasons saw some personal records and a couple of highlights. Those two seasons saw the Wizards as the most watched team in the NBA. But those two seasons stopped at 82 games a piece for the Wizards because despite having the best player in the history of basketball on the team, the Wizards never made the playoffs.
As a tougher critic than me once said – “Sometimes a man’s gotta know his limitations”
Per Eklund has contributed a huge amount to Saab over his rallying career and has been a long-term credit to the Saab brand. His racing career started in the early 1970s in a Saab 96 V4 and has continued to today. He’s had moderate success over the years with highs in the Swedish Championship and Pike’s Peak and should well consider himself to have had a successful career.
Perhaps his most consistently successful years were recent ones, with a European Championship in 1999 and several EC second places in subsequent years, combined with Pikes Peak success in 2000 and 2002. If someone tells you the 1st generation Saab 9-3 can’t be made to handle, tell them to think again!
Per is now 61 years old and the 2007 racing season has seen C-Finals, black flags and the occasional progression through to an A-Final for a top 6 finish. He’s currently in 9th place in the European Rallycross championship and finished in 4th place in the Swedish Championship. This follows on from 9th places or thereabouts in recent EC seasons. The Sport Sedan hasn’t been a successful car, or the competition has advanced – take your pick.
If Saab are ever going to get back into any form of racing in a big way, it won’t be for some time. The costs are just too high in modern racing for a small brand. Saab do have a racing department, however. I met the manager while I was in Sweden back in June. Per Eklund receives, by a large margin, the lion’s share of the Saab racing department’s meagre budget.
With results declining and a car that just doesn’t seem to be able to get the job done against the competition, is it time for Per to hand in his keys and perhaps act in a coaching/consulting role for a younger team?
Is there a racing competition elsewhere that’s more suited to Saab’s 9-3 SportSedan than rallycross? Is there a young driver somewhere in Sweden that could benefit from a drive and perhaps create some success and excitement?
I think the coming Saab 9-1 probably represents the best chance for Saab to get back into racing in general, and rallying in particular. By that time, Saab will have had a new 9-5 on the market fr a little while, they’ll have also had the 9-4x creating some interest and hopefully some cash. They may have even had a new generation of the 9-3 on the market. If success follows those releases and Saab can show Gm some growth, then maybe that competition department can grow a bit.
Saab could definitely use a reincarnation of some racing success.
Per’s results haven’t been up to the high standard that I’m sure he’d like in recent times, but he’s still getting involved. This photo was from the recent European Championship finale in the Czech Republic. The Citroen driver was apparently unhurt.
I don’t want to place a knock on Per at all. Any guy who gets into a race car and drives it in anger has my total respect and Per’s been doing it, and doing it for Saab, for well over thirty years now. His drive at Pikes Peak was a thing of magic.
I’m just wondering if the time has come. It came for the best basketballer in history and whilst few of us can ever aspire to come down from such lofty heights, the fact is that it comes for all of us.