Per at Pikes: It was only 5 years ago….

If I told you back in 2002 that there’d be a Swedish-made hatch racing on E85 in the Swedish Touring Car Championship in five year’s time……

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I know I’ve called for Per Eklund to hand in his keys recently and coach a new, upcoming driver. I still think that’s a better path at this point. But what I’d really love to see is even more basic than that. It’s a meaningful commitment to motorsport on Saab’s part.

They do have a motorsport department over there in Sweden. I met the head of that department earlier this year in Trollhattan. But my guess is that he doesn’t have much of a budget to work with. And truth be told, Saab don’t really have a car to work with for motorsport at an international level.

Like me, I’m sure most of you are eagerly awaiting the coming 9-1. Hopefully, a smaller, more agile Saab might lend itself to being thrown around a little.

Right now, those conservatives down the road in Gothenberg are preparing a C30 running on ethanol to race in the Swedish Touring Car Championship. Like I said at the start, if I told you that five years ago without mentioning the manufacturer’s name, you’d have sweared that it’d be a Saab.

Here’s hoping that some day that’ll be the case again. Saab built a heritage on motorsport and could use that shot of inspiration on a bigger level once again.

Until then, here’s an edited look at what Per managed just five short years ago…. If you’d like to watch a fuller video and read the press release that covered the race, click here.

Thanks Gripen.

8 Comments

  1. While I would love to see Saab get back into motorsports and think that it’s a great advertising medium, they should wait until the 9¹ comes out before diving-in with both feet, IMHO.

    In the meantime they could fund regional private racing teams through sponsorship deals like that of J.L. Racing in Canada. Perhaps even go so far as to provide some special factory-modified 9³s.

    Racing really does seem to be a more regional thing though. While “international” motorsports such as F1 and WRC are wildly popular in Europe and elsewhere, North America is a completely different beast where the “only” racing formats that matter are “stock car” (NASCAR) and drag racing. Saab does not have a product that would compete favorably in these types of racing. So in Saab’s largest market (N.A.) they really don’t have the motorsport medium they can advertise with in the larger scheme of things.

    But it’d be hard to argue that motorsports are a great way to advertise. Some of the magic happening with Saab sales in Britain are said to be a result of Saab’s rally racing profile forty years ago!

    That being said, I’ll definitely be watching through the internet if Saab jumps into WRC in 2011 with XWD. Unfortunately by then other manufacturers will have their hands on the fourth-generation Haldex technology by then too so Saab won’t have quite the competitive advantage they would right now.

  2. the way Per was fishtailing all over the track to Pikes Peak I’d swear he was driving a rear wheel drive…I obviously am no racing expert.

  3. “where the “only” racing formats that matter are “stock car” (NASCAR) and drag racing. Saab does not have a product that would compete favorably in these types of racing.”

    That’s gold Gripen! I might have replaced “favourably” with “at all”.

  4. denvernewbie: as Eirik points-out, Per Eklund had a four-wheel-drive Viggen back before Epsilon!

    Something interesting I just learned: the prior gen 9³ (1999-2002) which was really just a modified NG900 (1994-1998) was based on the same platform as the 9⁵ is still based-on! That was pre-Epsilon! It’s the only car still in production based on that platform.

  5. Just watched the video in it’s entirety on the ipod. Absolutely, bloody awesome, and it’s a 2litre. That cockpit footage is gold.

    I just hope somebody has the financial wherewithall, the guts and time to run a 9-3 XWD up there independently.

  6. I just drove the Peak last Tuesday while on vacation in CO, it was friggin’ awesome and scary (wife had proverbial death grip on the “OhSH_T handle” the whole way from mile 11 on up). Hard to believe the speeds the racers hit going up that thing (view is incredible at the top, although the air at 14,110′ makes for lightheadedness to be certain).

    Great vid…

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