August 25, 2016 – He’s leading the Group N standings in the 2016 Lebanese Rally Championship thanks to a combination of speed and consistency, and he’s going all out in Rally of Lebanon as he aims for gold. Eddy Abou Karam talks about his season so far, his strategy for Rally of Lebanon and the future.
Q: You’ve had problems in the Spring Rally, but you returned stronger than ever in Jezzine, finishing 2nd in Group N and 4th overall, and you bettered that result in the Cedars Rally by finishing 2nd in the category and 3rd overall. You’re now comfortably leading the Group N championship. How would you rate your season so far?
A: We had a difficult start to the year at the Spring Rally, and we were hoping to have a trouble-free season in which we can score maximum points before Rally of Lebanon because there’s always a high probability of running into issues in ROL. Fortunately, we had great pace and no trouble in Jezzine and Cedars, we finished 2nd only because Roger Feghali was also competing in Group N, and he’s nearly impossible to beat. All in all, it’s been a very good season, and I hope that we can clinch the Group N title in Rally of Lebanon.
Q: You finished 2nd in the Lebanese Hill Climb Championship after a tight battle with Rodolphe Asmar in the final round in Baabdat. Victory eluded you by a tenth of a second; tell us more about it.
A: We had a great start to the season, claiming victory in Group N in the first round in Arsoun. We had a small accident during the second heat in the second round in Bkassine, and the cancellation of the third heat meant that I only go to do one run, whilst Rodolphe did two, so it was unfair. In Baabdat, it was really fair, and I had a lot of fun; the best man won in the end, but I think the major hit to my championship odds came in Bkassine.
Q: This year’s Rally of Lebanon is slightly shorter than last year’s. What do you think of the itinerary?
A: True, the rally this year is a bit shorter compared to last year. However, this is still Rally of Lebanon. Saturday consists of two loops of three stages and they’re some of the toughest stages in the rally, not in terms of driving, but in terms of endurance. You have to be clever, especially in a more fragile Group N car.
Q: What’s your strategy for Rally of Lebanon: taking risks by pushing or keeping it cool to secure the Group N title?
A: Of course, the championship title is what we’ve been working on since the beginning of the season. We’ve done 50% of the work, and Rally of Lebanon is the remaining 50%. It is true that we have a comfortable points advantage in the standings, but there’s a possibility to finish 3rd overall in the championship, so I will do my best; we will take it stage by stage and start cautiously to avoid mistakes and failures. I have a lot of calculations that will consume part of my focus, but I will do my best and I will push for victory in Group N. It’s going to be a tough rally with a lot of calculations.
Q: Rally of Lebanon hasn’t been the best of events for you during the past two years. Will this affect you going into the event this year?
A: You never forget your past experiences, and you learn from them. We build upon this experience, even if it was a small experience. I’m always excited to improve in every edition of the rally, so I’m hoping for the best this year.
Q: We know that Tamer Ghandour was one of your main rivals in Group N, but he has now switched to an Evo X R4. How does this impact the competition in general?
A: I have no doubt that Tamer was one of the fastest drivers in Group N, and it’s a loss to the competition in Group N not to have him or Nicolas Amiouni. He switched to an R4, but I can always compare myself to him, or any other driver, by running some calculations and eliminating the differences created by the cars.
Q: You’ve been competing alongside Joseph Kmeid for the past 3 seasons. How would you describe your relationship with him?
A: Joseph is an amazing and fun person that you can easily get along with, but he’s a completely different person in a rally car: he’s fully focused all the time and he’s aware of everything that’s going on; he’s always trying to help me with his great experience. I think we’re a good team.
Q: You’ve been with TGRS from the beginning, what makes the team so special in your opinion?
A: I began my racing career with TGRS and Tony (Germany) has helped me become the driver I am today, so I’m very grateful to be working with this team that feels more like a family.
Q: Eddy, you’ve netted some great results, so fetching sponsors should theoretically not be a problem for you.
A: We’ve been trying. We were promised by a lot of sponsors but nothing eventually materialized. I think it all comes down to the country’s situation and the media coverage; I believe LBCI’s coverage this year is going to help us.
Q: Moving on from Rally of Lebanon, what are you plans for next year?
A: It’s a bit early to think about next year; my main concern is Rally of Lebanon at the moment. I have a few vague ideas for next year, but nothing’s clear; we were on the tightest budget this year and we couldn’t undertake testing properly, so it’s a bit difficult. We will see.
Q: Is there anyone you would like to thank?
A: I would like to start with Tony Germany and the whole TGRS team who have been extremely supportive and who have helped me perform my best. I have a lot of friends I would like to thank as well for being there for me 24/7, such as Michel Zgheib and Jad Bechara, to name a few. Of course, there’s also my parents, my wife and you guys for the coverage.