Karam Takes Home Third Consecutive Rumman Trophy
Lebanese race driver Nabil “Billie” Karam won his third consecutive Rumman Hill Climb trophy, and his fourth in his history in this race, held on Friday in the Jerash area to the north of the Jordanian capital Amman.
Karam was able with his old, yet loyal, Lancia Delta Integrale to come close to the record of one-minute, 55.69 second time achieved in 1997 by Bahrain’s Shaikh Jaber Al Khalifa on a Caterham Super Seven. It took Karam one minute and 57.69 seconds to whiz around the three-kilometer track.
But Karam only won by a very small margin. His compatriot and champion Jean-Pierre Nasrallah came in second in his Ford Escort WRC with just a bit over a second more on his cumulative time, which amounted to tree minutes and 55.51 seconds from three runs. Nasrallah had managed to beat Karam by more than a whole seven seconds in the first run, but he could not double his illusive triumph in the second run, when Karam beat him by a second and a half, bringing himself closer to Khalifa’s record.
But the best of thrills were indeed saved for last. In the best ten run, the track took Nasrallah only a mere tenth of a second more to cross, only to forgo the victory to his archival Karam. The latter’s time was 1:57.82.
The victorious Karam would only have wished to have it all to himself, blaming himself for the loss of the first run. “The tires where just too cold, and I didn’t take my time to warm them up on the downhill,” Karam told Albawaba.com. “The car lost its grip several times on the coarse asphalt, and that’s what held me back.”
It seems that Karam’s tires were not the only cold thing at Rumman. Nasrallah's share of problems, on the other hand, was with his spark plugs. “I have never had a hotter competition! But the spark plugs they fitted before the second run were too cold for the engine, so ‘Billie’ took his revenge then,” Nasrallah told Albawaba.com.
For years now, this Jordanian hill climb was all about fierce competition among the Lebanese, especially since points from this race are included in their own national championship. What further adds to the excitement of this unique race, is the Lebanese superiority on tarmac, an area where no other drivers, Jordanian or otherwise, could beat them in. Moreover, the dedication with which the Lebanese prepare their cars assures them of an easy victory.
This fact was acknowledged both by Karam and Jordanian third-placer Marouf Abu Samra, who achieved the best result in years for a Jordanian.
“I think what the Jordanians need to beat us is purpose-prepared cars like the ones we bring here,” Karam told Albawaba.com. “But they still need to work on their modest experience in tarmac racing.”
Abu Samra couldn’t agree more, “the Lebanese have experience on tarmac more than all of us put together, because the race is mostly on their abundant asphalt roads and paved tracks, while here in Jordan, we have only desert tracks and rugged mountain trails.
“As for preparation,” Abu Samra went on, “we do not have the financial and technical abilities to upgrade our cars to such a level of precision, that is, if we have hill-climb suitable cars to begin with.”
Abu Samra had driven Lebanese driver Fadi Hayek’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V, a car prepared primarily for tarmac rallying; a fact that actually helped its performance at the hill climb.
What made it particularly interesting, though, is that Abu Samra beat Hayek in his own car by a whole 7.5 seconds, coming first in group 8!
For the first time in years, there were three Syrian participants at Rumman, crowned by Muhannad Amoura’s 16th place on an early-nineties Daewoo Ciello fitted with a two-liter engine. The Only Cypriot at Rumman was tenth placer Chariss Komodromos on Daewoo’s cousin, German Opel Astra 2.0.
Women Pick Rumman Too
Women were big in this year’s Rumman Hill Climb. The first of six women was Jordan’s Nancy Majali, in her second international race – she had been at May’s Jordan International Rally with her compatriot Nadia Shnoudeh. The former came in 13th as the leader amongst the ladies on Friday, while the latter came in 24th. Majali had achieved what Jordanian men couldn’t do for so long: she beat Lebanon’s famed rally driver Hanady Salloum. Other ladies were Shnoudeh, Randa Nabulsi and Maya Mufti in their national race, and Majdala khater, also from Lebanon.
The Rumman Hill Climb is a three-kilometer tarmac track that incorporates 27 curves of various tightness, and rises 300 meters from the foothill to the top. It is essentially the oldest car race still held in the whole Arab world. The race was held officially for the first time in 1956, with keen participation from the late Jordanian King Hussein, who still has two unbroken records to his name – Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)