Grizedale Stages review
December 3, 2012

After winning rallies at the highest level of Super 2000 rallying across the world, there was time for one more outing for the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (2011) title-taking Satria Neo S2000 last weekend. And the result was another stunning podium place for PROTON.

The rally? The Grizedale Stages, run through the English Lake District.

The driver? Oliver Mellors, the 17-year-old son of four-time British National Rally Champion and PROTON team principal Chris Mellors. 

It will come as no surprise that Mellors Jr is no stranger to the Satria. When he’s not at school or doing his homework, he’s usually found in a Satria on PROTON’s test stage or under a PROTON in the factory. 

But Saturday’s all-gravel event was the biggest test yet for the teen who now holds the mantle of the fastest fella around the Mellors’ kitchen table.  

Grizedale forest is an unforgiving place. When it was included on the RAC Rally – then Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship – it earned the nickname of ‘Grizzly’. World-class drivers loved and loathed it in equal measure, with Ari Vatanen enjoying every flat-out minute of Britain’s most picturesque forest roads, while Juha Kankkunen labeled those same woods as: “the longest Mickey Mouse stages in the world.”

Grizzly got its reputation for catching out the likes of Kankkunen, Vatanen and Colin McRae with its super-quick straights and deceptive corners. But on Saturday, Mellors Jr stepped up to the plate and delivered an inch-perfect drive with Grizedale at its most grizzly.

The conditions ranged from ice to sheet ice; slippery to ridiculously slippery, but Mellors and co-driver Dan Barritt emerged unscathed, and without a scratch on the Satria-Neo S2000. What’s more, had they not been held up for two minutes behind a slower car in the second stage, they might actually have won.

Oliver only passed his driving test three months ago and Saturday was only his third ever rally – so it was probably only fitting that he finished third overall… 

Mellors finished his first ever gravel rally in a Satria-Neo S2000 on the podium, having toppled numerous local heroes in their more powerful World Rally Cars along the way. And, as well as that, he impressed his team principal. And dad.

Quotes:
Oliver Mellors (age 17) said:

“Dad told me at the start to have a good day out, so I did. It was a bit slippery in places – lots of places actually – but we just kept it in the middle of the road. It’s quite amazing to get to the start of a stage and basically be told: “Go on, drive as fast as you can…” Having said that, I knew Dad was waiting for me at the finish and he knew he was pretty keen to see me, Dan and the car! We caught a car in the second stage; we were behind him for ages and dropped a good couple of minutes compared to our stage time for that one later in the day. I loved every minute of it and want to do it again tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’ll be back behind the books again this week, but counting the minutes until I can get back in the car again.”

MEM team principal (and Oliver’s dad) Chris Mellors said:
“Oliver’s always had a passion for the sport – not sure where he gets that from! And since he passed his driving test a few months ago, he’s been working to get signatures on his [competition] licence. He was really keen to have a go at Grizedale; we had Aliastair Fisher’s car from the last SWRC round in Spain sitting needing a rebuild, so Oliver asked if he could give it a wash, give it a quick refettle and take it up to the Lakes. I said yes, but I have to admit when we got out of the car this morning and I could hardly stand up in the car park, I was beginning to have my reservations. But he came out of the end of every stage, quite happy, totally relaxed and just getting on with it. He’s had a good day, which is what this was all about. And he’s got another signature on his licence. And he didn’t put a mark on the car, which makes me very happy!”

Rally de Espana review
November 11, 2012

PROTON Motorsports has ended a fine debut season with second place in the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship after an astonishing run of six podiums and two wins from seven events.


Proton continued its incredible run of results in Spain.

The Malaysian manufacturer took second and fourth places in SWRC standings of Rally de Espana, which ended in Salou this evening (Sunday). P-G Andersson was the runner-up, having led the event on the opening leg, while Alastair Fisher turned in an impressive debut in the second Satria-Neo S2000, taking fourth at the end of the World Rally Championship’s only true mixed-surface rally. 

Having won two rallies, Andersson arrived in Spain among the favourites to take what would have been his third world title – but he missed out finishing just nine points shy of Craig Breen’s winning total. P-G’s co-driver Emil Axelsson did, however, win the co-drivers’ SWRC title.

The Spanish SWRC round turned out to be a fittingly challenging finale to what has been a thrilling season of competition. Heavy rain arrived in the Tarragona hills on the eve of the opening day, leaving the crews struggling for grip in some of the most treacherous conditions of the year. But, by the time the PROTONs arrived on the seafront in Salou on Friday evening, the rain had stopped, allowing P-G and Alastair to thrill the thousands of fans who had turned out to watch the town centre test.

P-G set a blistering pace through Friday morning, but slipped back from the lead when he was caught out on Friday afternoon, spinning the car and dropping time to Breen with resultant suspension damage. 

The PROTON team switched the cars from asphalt to gravel specification for the weekend, but the gap was simply too big between first and second and the two-time Junior World Rally Champion remained where he was. The cars ran faultlessly through the super-quick switchback Catalan asphalt stages, allowing P-G to maintain the team’s exceptional run of podium results in its debut season of Super 2000 rallying’s highest level.   

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:
“I wanted to win, that’s the result we came here for. We came close, we were second, but that’s not enough. Things looked good on Friday morning, but this wasn’t our result. It was quite frustrating sitting in second place, knowing the title was slipping away. I want to congratulate Craig. He’s had a really hard year and to win the championship, good for him. And I want to thank my team as well. PROTON has worked hard all the way through the SWRC. We have made some really big steps with the Satria this season and the car is quick and we’ve won some rallies, but sometimes the sport doesn’t go quite the way you want it to. The weather made the conditions really hard on Friday and we had some pressure after we had a small problem, but when we had the spin on Saturday we dropped time and broke the steering – after that it was going to be hard work. But, hey, the season’s finished now. We will look forward from here and there’s always something to look forward to with PROTON, the enthusiasm from the team and the manufacturer is fantastic.”

Alastair Fisher said:
“I was pretty frustrated on Friday when I had the problem, but after that it’s been getting better and better all the time. I don’t think I’d fully understood how long it would take to get to grips with a completely new car. On a pretty fundamental level, the layout of the car inside is different; buttons for things like the windscreen wipers are in different places – and we certainly needed those on Friday! And the way the car drove was quite different from the other Super 2000 cars I’ve been in, but I have to say I loved it. The chassis was fantastic and gave me great confidence straight away. I had never been to this event before and I wanted to be pushing from the start and I felt happy to do that in this car. I’ve done a couple of events in a S2000 car this year, but I haven’t been in one so much and maybe that showed up against a field with drivers in it who have been in these cars consistently. The PROTON team has done a great job with the Satria and it was an amazing opportunity for me to come here with a manufacturer and take the step up from the WRC Academy level. Having had a taste of driving at this level, I definitely want to do more of it!”

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said:
“We set our stall out right from the start, we were going all-out to win this event and, to that end, P-G made an excellent start. He was setting a tremendously impressive pace, but it didn’t go for us. We have to say congratulations to Craig, he’s earned the title this year under some of the toughest conditions imaginable. I’ve been very pleased with what Alastair did in the car as well. He came here with high expectations of himself, but this was his first time in the car and he did a very good job. Once he settled himself down and got on with the driving, he was good – he set good times and didn’t put a mark on the car. I’m happy with Alastair and I’d like to talk to him some more about the future. He’s a very sensible and quick lad. For PROTON, we’re definitely looking to be back here and fighting to go one better next year. This has been our first season in this series and two wins and six podiums from seven starts is not a bad first effort.  Emil (Axelsson, Andersson’s co-driver) is the SWRC co-driving champion, so we congratulate him on that.”

Emil Axelsson said:
“It’s good to win a world title. It’s been a great year with P-G and PROTON with some really big battles. And this rally was the same, we started so well and made some really good times, but this was one of the toughest rallies – especially on Friday!” 

Event data
Round: 8/8, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Based: Salou, Spain
Stages: 18
Surface: gravel/asphalt
Liaison distance: 986.27km
Competitive distance: 405.46km
Total distance: 1391.73km

Catalunya Rally preview
November 2, 2012



P.G. Andersson and PROTON aim to rule the world in Spain next week.

PROTON Motorsports driver P-G Andersson knows Super 2000 victory on next week’s Catalunya Rally will be enough for him to secure a third world championship title – and a first SWRC win with the Malaysian manufacturer.

World championship glory is nothing new to PROTON or Andersson. The Malaysian firm conquered the PWRC title with Karamjit Singh in 2002, while P-G won the Junior World Rally Championship in 2004 and 2007.

Andersson and his PROTON Satria-Neo S2000 have been among the SWRC pacesetters throughout the season, with the Swede leading the series for much of 2012. And now, the championship battle goes down to the wire on the asphalt and gravel stages inland from the event’s base in Salou. The event starts next Friday (November 9) and finishes three days later and with the champion crowned in the middle of the coastal resort.

Next week’s rally will be the seventh and final round of PROTON Motorsport’s 2012 SWRC programme. With two victories and podium results on five of the six rallies contested this year, Andersson and PROTON are in confident mood ahead of the Catalunya Rally.

The event itself is unique in this year’s championship, in that it is the only round which runs significant gravel and asphalt mileage. The opening day of the rally runs largely on the loose on the event’s most westerly roads, but the weekend is all about the asphalt. A new innovation for this season will be a Friday night stage through the streets of Salou – a test bound to be a big hit with the vast crowds of Spanish motorsport fans who regularly turn out for their round of the World Rally Championship.

This year’s Catalunya Rally has moved back by two weeks and runs as the final round of not only the SWRC, but also the main World Rally Championship as well. The shift in date could bring more changeable weather as the event winds its way into the hills of Tarragona. 

Whatever the weather, PROTON Motorsports will be ready for the conditions, having carried out extensive asphalt and gravel testing in preparation for the event – with the team also running a final set-up check for the two factory Satria-Neo S2000s on Monday (November 5) next week.

Joining Andersson for the final SWRC round of the season is one of the rallying world’s hottest young prospects: Alastair Fisher. The 24-year-old has been one of the fastest drivers in the WRC Academy for the last two seasons and – after campaigning S2000 machinery on previous international rallies – should be able to slot straight into the PROTON. 

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“I haven’t been to Catalunya for a few years and I haven’t been since the organisers were including the gravel stages, so this will be a new experience for me. But I have good memories of the event – we have won the Junior World Rally Championship category there before [in 2007] and we need to win the Super 2000 category next week; the only way to think is to win the event for us to take the title. The car feels good, we know how good it is on gravel and we have shown some real speed on the asphalt as well. It’s going to be a really exciting rally for everybody watching, but for those of us in the fight, we’ll just be pushing as hard as we can.”

Alastair Fisher said:
“I want to be doing WRC-2 next season and it’s great that a team and a manufacturer like PROTON has put its trust in me and has seen what I’m capable of with my stage times. It will take a big step with the budget to move up to WRC-2 in 2013 but hopefully this opportunity with PROTON will give me the chance to impress them and other potential partners.”

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said:
“What a great way to end the season – with a straight fight for the title. Next week is very straightforward, whoever drives faster will be champion. There’s no doubt the event will come with a great deal of pressure, but at the same time it’s going to be very, very exciting. Rallies like Catalunya next week are why we do this job. Obviously, we go to Spain confident in the car and P-G, but at the same time Craig [Breen, Andersson’s main rival] is going very well. There’s no doubt, the boys are going to be in for a battle. The dual-surface nature of the event also means it’s a different challenge for the team. At the end of the opening day when we’ve been on gravel, we will change the suspension and transmission in preparation for the asphalt stages over Saturday and Sunday. It’s quite a big job, but it’s controllable and the team are ready for it. Another exciting element of the event is Alastair joining us for the first time. He was in the car testing with us in Wales a couple of weeks ago and ran very well. He’s clearly a very capable young driver and one we’re very much looking forward to working with next week.”

Event data
Round: 8/8, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Based: Salou, Spain
Stages: 18
Surface: gravel/asphalt
Liaison distance: 986.27km
Competitive distance: 405.46km
Total distance: 1391.73km
Pre-event press conference: Barcelona, (Thursday November 8, 1815)
Post-event press conference: Media Centre, PortAventura (Sunday November 11, 1630)

Event timetable
Friday November 9 
SS1 Gandesa (7.00km) 0745
SS2 Pesells 1 (26.59km) 0810
SS3 Terra Alta 1 (44.02km) 0919
Service PortAventura 1132
SS4 Pesells 2 (26.59km) 1335
SS5 Terra Alta 2 (44.02km) 1444
SS6 Salou (2.00km) 1700

Saturday November 10 
SS7 La Mussara 1 (20.48km) 0800
SS8 El Priorat 1 (45.97km) 0915
SS9 Riba-roja d’Ebre 1 (14.20km)
1026
Service PortAventura 1236
SS10 La Mussara 2 (20.48km)
1351
SS11 El Priorat 2 (45.97km)
1506
SS12 Riba-roja d’Ebre 2 (14.20km)
1617

Sunday November 11
SS13 Riudecanyes 1 (16.35km)
0750
SS14 Santa Marina 1 (26.51km)
0851
SS15 La Serra d’Almos 1 (4.11km)
0947
Service PortAventura 1047
SS16 Riudecanyes 2 (16.35km)
1152
SS17 Santa Marina 2 (26.51km)
1253
SS18 La Serra d’Almos 2 (4.11km)
1349
Finish: Salou 1502

China Rally Longyou review
October 28, 2012

The PROTON Motorsports team ended its 2012 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship season with a victorious double podium on the China Rally Longyou, which ended in the Zhejiang province today.


The Proton team celebrated a second win from three rallies in China

PROTON’s reigning APRC champion Alister McRae maintained his dominance of the second half of the season, taking his second win from three rallies and his third podium from four rallies. The Scotsman and his Satria-Neo S2000 were, once again, on stunning and pace-setting form through China this weekend.

And McRae’s win was backed-up perfectly by flying Finn Juha Salo who collected his best ever finish in China with his place in the sister Satria. 

The rally was, as usual, one of the toughest rounds of the Asia-Pacific season, with the crews having to deal with ever-changing grip levels on offer from stages which ran through bamboo plantations and across some of the most technically challenging concrete surfaces. But the PROTONs dealt with the terrain faster and more precisely than any other manufacturer. 

Both the factory Satria-Neo S2000s ran with DMACK tyres and PROTON Motorsports was delighted to be able to partner the Chinese firm in first and third places on the most important rally in its domestic calendar. 


Alistair McRae and Proton completed a hatrick of wins in China

Neither the PROTONs or the DMACKs suffered any issues across the 13 stages in China, allowing McRae and his co-drover Bill Hayes to further extend their extraordinary dominance of this event. The Scot and Australian have never been beaten in China and became the first crew ever to complete a hat-trick of wins in Longyou – a great way to round off PROTON’s season in the APRC. 

PROTON Motorsports 2012 rally programme is not complete, however. The Malaysian manufacturer remains in the thick of the fight for a World Rally Championship title, in a battle which reaches its conclusion in Spain next week (Catalunya Rally, November 8-11).

A third victory of the season in Catalunya will be enough to seal the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship for PROTON Motorsports driver P-G Andersson (Sweden). Andersson is well-versed in world titles, having already lifted the silverware for the Junior World Rally Championship on two separate occasions previously.

A Spanish success for the Swede would be the perfect end to a very strong season for Satria and PROTON Motorsports.

Quotes:
Alister McRae said:

“As you can imagine, I’m delighted to win this rally again. When any driver starts an event, you start with one aim: to win. This has never been the easiest of events to compete on, the road surface is always changing and there are big rocks lying around everywhere – it would have been easy to damage the car or collect a puncture. You have to drive a very clean rally to succeed here in China and that’s what we have done. The car and the tyres have been fantastic in some really tricky conditions. I think the stages have probably been a bit rougher here than in previous seasons, making this an even more difficult event than before – which makes it all the more satisfying to win for the third year in succession! First and third is a great result for PROTON, it shows the strength of the team.”

Juha Salo said:
“Taking a podium finish on my first attempt at the China Rally with the official PROTON team was a great result for me. It’s not an easy rally to drive and the competition was really close all of the time on this event, but I had a job to do for the team and I did it – that’s all that matters for me. The Satria is a really great rally car to drive, but I think there are still some things for me to learn about driving a Super 2000 car. It’s a great end to the year for me and for the PROTON team.”

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said:
“Another great team result on a tough rally. As we predicted, Alister went very, very well on this event. He knows just what’s needed to get the best out of the car under difficult conditions. He was really neat, tidy and precise through the technical stages and then really quick on the faster forested sections. This result, allied to Alister’s win in Malaysia and P-G [Andersson]’s wins in Finland and Sweden show where we’re at with the PROTON. We had some mid-season changes to the car which have really worked and made the car quicker and quicker as the year has progressed. And now we have to carry that great team morale and performance forward for one last rally of the season in Spain next month. P-G has a real chance to lift PROTON from its dominance of the Asia-Pacific scene to its first world title in S2000 rallying. We’re all very excited and seriously looking forward to the Catalunya Rally.”

Event data
Round: 6/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Longyou, China
Stages: 13
Surface: mixed 
Liaison distance: 414.68km
Competitive distance: 230.96km
Total distance: 645.64km

China Rally Longyou preview
October 21, 2012

Defending FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champions PROTON Motorsports will be chasing a third successive APRC win on the China Longyou Rally this week.


Alister McRae delivered a win in Malaysia and is looking for the same in china.

The Malaysian manufacturer will be led into the final encounter of the 2012 APRC series by Alister McRae. The Scot secured the APRC drivers’ title on this event last year, ensuring PROTON enjoyed a double celebration after also winning the manufacturers’ award.

McRae will start as favourite in China, looking to complete a hat-trick of victories in one of the toughest rounds of the series. McRae also arrives at the start of the event full of confidence following his 16-minute victory on the Malaysian Rally, earlier this year. McRae has finished first or second on two of the last three rounds of the championship.

Joining the team’s Scottish star in China will be Finland’s Juha Salo. Salo is also an experienced hand on the Longyou stages, having competed there previously in 2007 and 2008.

The China Rally Longyou runs across a variety of different stages and surfaces, ranging from broken concrete to the slippery roads cutting through the region’s bamboo forests. 

Longyou is in the Zhejiang Province, approximately 400 kilometres away from Shanghai, China’s largest city. 

The event gets underway with shakedown at the Shiyuan Motorsports complex on Thursday (October 25), with a ceremonial start in Rong Chang Square the following morning. The event finishes on Sunday afternoon (October 28).

Quotes:
Alister McRae said:

“The China Rally is one where I have always gone well and, of course, there are good memories of taking the title there last year. But it’s a really tricky event. The grip level is changing all the time and the stages are really quite technical, so a good recce is absolutely vital. Obviously we won in Malaysia, so it would be great if we could end the year with another victory for PROTON. I think it’s pretty clear the car has been getting quicker and quicker as the season has progressed and we’re looking to show what the Satria can do again this weekend.”

Juha Salo said:
“Driving with the PROTON Motorsports team has been fantastic and the more time I have been spending in the car, the more I have been feeling like I am at home. Definitely, it took me more time than I thought it would to get used to this new style of rally car – after so long in the Group N machine – but I feel I am ready now. And, like Alister, I like the competition in China, it’s a very interesting rally and country.”

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said:
“This is a big event for PROTON Motorsports – but it’s one where we do have a very good record. Alister always seems to excel on these kind of roads, the twisty nature of the stages suit his neat and tidy style; he’s great on these kind of technical roads. There has been a really big battle this year between us and the rest of the teams in APRC and that’s definitely going to continue into the final round. There’s no doubt we’re going to have a fight on our hands, but we’re ready for it – we want to defend our championship successfully. The cars are working well, the guys are all on form and PROTON Motorsports is looking to end the APRC season on a high.”

Event data
Round: 6/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Longyou, China
Stages: 13
Surface: mixed 
Liaison distance: 414.68km
Competitive distance: 230.96km
Total distance: 645.64km
Shakedown: Shi Yuan, 1530 Thursday October 25

Rallye de France Alsace review
October 7, 2012

The PROTON Motorsports team collected its fifth successive podium finish in the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship on last week’s Rallye de France.

Swedish star P-G Andersson’s third place on the Strasbourg-based event was enough to ensure he goes into the final round of the SWRC among the favourites for the title. That final round is the Catalunya Rally (November 8-11).


P.G. Andersson closes within 2 points of the SWRC title.

The penultimate SWRC round of the season ran through the home region of France’s most famous rally driver: eight-time world champion Sebastien Loeb. Hundreds of thousands of fans turned out to cheer their hero on to victory and a ninth successive title in Alsace last week. 

The asphalt stages varied widely across the spread of the event, ranging from three tight and twisty town and city stages in Strasbourg, Mulhouse and Haguenau to the super-quick racetrack-style roads running through the Vosges mountains and into the Black Forest. The notoriously fickle weather also delivered as well, with the warm and dry conditions on days one and two giving way to heavy rain on the final morning.

That heavy rain left the drivers tip-toeing their way across a surface shorn of grip and second-guessing the location of standing water ready to send them aquaplaning into a ditch in a split second. 

Andersson and his PROTON team-mate Andreas Aigner (Austria) mastered the conditions to place their Satria-Neo S2000s third and fourth at the finish of the event. 

Andersson’s rally was going to plan with the two-time Junior World Rally Champion and SWRC leader coming into Strasbourg driving sensibly, without taking any risks. He was running in a comfortable podium place when he suffered a slow puncture on SS13 followed by an alternator problem on SS14. Andersson returned on the final day and collected third place, which was enough to ensure he heads to the final round just two points off the series leader.

Former Production Car World Rally Champion Aigner was fourth after a solid debut in the second Satria. The Austrian admitted it had taken him time to get used to the different driving style required for S2000, having spent much of his career driving more standard Group N machinery.

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“We had a plan when we came to this event. It was a long rally and one where we knew there would be a high rate of retirement, so we decided to play ourselves in and not take too many risks. We were doing that, driving sensibly without any trouble. The one small thing we did have was the gear ratios in the car were a little bit long, we struggled to get to the rev limiter which maybe cost us some speed coming out of the corners, but it was okay. Then we had the problem with the alternator and we had to stop. We came back today (Sunday) and got the third place which keeps us right in the middle of the championship. It’s going to be a big battle in Catalunya, that’s for sure – I can’t wait to get there!”

Andreas Aigner said:
“This was not such an easy rally coming from so many events in a Group N car. Everything was so different – even the noise inside the car! But I made it to the finish and I did the job which the team have asked me to do. I made some changes to the car halfway through the second day, which meant the car was oversteering less, after that I found the car easier to drive and I really enjoyed the event. This morning was tough, when the weather became wet, the grip was always changing and we had to be really careful. For my first time in S2000, I really enjoyed the rally, it was a fantastic experience to drive for the team.”

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said:
“There’s no doubt that this has been a very tough round of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, but the positive for us is that we are very much still in the fight for the title. P-G drove very well through the event, nothing dramatic and sticking to the plan. I’m disappointed with the problem on the second day, but that’s the sport sometimes. He came back and dealt with some really tough conditions this morning to take third at the finish. Andreas went in fourth after a very solid job first time out in the car. He did what we asked from him, bringing the car to the finish without a mark on it. We look ahead to Spain from here. That event [Rally Catalunya] is going to be a tremendously exciting with the winner taking all in SWRC.”

Event data
Round: 7/8, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Based: Strasbourg, France
Stages: 22
Surface: asphalt
Liaison distance: 983.59km
Competitive distance: 404.90km
Total distance: 1388.49km

Rallye de France Alsace preview
September 30, 2012

PROTON Motorsports arrives in France for its first asphalt round of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship since January's Rallye Monte-Carlo this week - with the Malaysian manufacturer hoping to extend its advantage at the top of the table.

P-G Andersson (Sweden) continues to lead the SWRC standings and remains in confident mood going into Rallye de France Alsace. Despite this week being Andersson’s first time competing on the Strasbourg-based event, the lead Satria-Neo S2000 driver has a wealth of experience on sealed surfaces, having won asphalt events on his way to two Junior World Rally Championship titles earlier in his career. 

PROTON Motorsports has only been off the podium once in the five SWRC rounds run so far this season - an exceptional achievement for the team in its first year at the highest level of Super 2000 world rallying. 

In preparation for Rallye de France Alsace, PROTON Motorsports tested extensively in the same region earlier this month, dialling the Satria into the precise requirements of the wide variety of French roads which will be used next week.  

Starting from Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace and seat of European Parliament, this penultimate round of the SWRC runs along the French-German border and includes a variety of stages. The crews will face fast roads running through the Vosges Mountains, with twisty sections when the stages dive deep into the Black Forest. Also in the mix will be tricky vineyard tests and the challenge of driving through the urban streets on spectator stages in Strasbourg, Haguenau and Mulhouse. 

While this might be the first all-asphalt round of the SWRC series, the crews did contest largely dry sections of asphalt on the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo back in January – where Andersson built a seven-minute lead in PROTON’s debut in the world championship for Super 2000 cars. 

The priority for PROTON and Andersson in France this week is to maintain – and further –the SWRC lead ahead of the final round of the season, November’s Catalunya Rally.

Joining Andersson in the team for France will be another FIA World Rally Championship title winner in the shape of Austrian ace Andreas Aigner. Aigner won the 2008 Production Car title and is looking forward to making his debut in the SWRC series with PROTON Motorsports.

The event gets underway with a superspecial, which starts outside the European Parliament building in Strasbourg on Thursday (October 4) and runs through a city first discovered in 12BC. 

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“After all the gravel we have driven on this year, it will be interesting to get to the first real asphalt round. We know the car has good pace on this surface and our pre-event test went well. But this is a long, long rally. What we have seen more than anything this season is that all the points are at the finish; trying to win this rally on every corner is not the way to go about it. It’s the first time we have competed on this rally and we have to make sure we have a good recce and then start the event sensibly – we need points and we need good points to try and extend our lead in the SWRC.”

Andreas Aigner said:
“The first thing I felt at the test with the PROTON is that it is a real rally car made for just this job. I drive a Group N car for a lot of years and coming to the Super 2000 car is a real difference – you feel it every time you go on the accelerator and the brake: it’s a great car to drive. I have been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time now. We had a good test, it was good to get experience of the car and to meet the team. These roads will be new for me, I haven’t been on this event before, but I can’t wait to get started.”

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said:
“We want to win this championship, there’s nothing surer than that. We’ve had a very good test and the changes we made to the car in the summer are working very, very well with the car in asphalt specification. This is the first all asphalt event we have done this season and finding the right set-up for the car is all about a compromise. During the test, we went to the most extreme set-up for the car – essentially making it into a racing car – and the speed P-G was able to carry through the corners was extraordinary. While you get the best performance from the car in that set-up, it’s uncompromising and there’s no margin for error – if you hit a bump unexpectedly then you’re likely to be thrown into the scenery. So, the optimum set-up is a compromise; we found the ultimate settings and then came back a little bit from that. We have seen some asphalt stages – in Monte Carlo – earlier this year and the car was very, very competitive there, so we’re looking forward to this week.”

Event data
Round: 7/8, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Based: Strasbourg, France
Stages: 22
Surface: asphalt
Liaison distance: 983.59km
Competitive distance: 404.90km
Total distance: 1388.49km
Pre-event press conference: Media Centre, Strasbourg (Thursday October 4, 1330)
Post-event press conference: Media Centre, Strasbourg (Sunday October 7, 1645)

Event timetable
Thursday October 4
SS1 Strasbourg (3.63km) 1630

Friday October 5 
SS2 Hohlandsbourg-Firstplan 1 (28.67km)
0923
SS3 Vallee de Munster 1 (22.16km)
1006
SS4 Soultzeren-Pays Welche 1 (19.93km)
1122
Service Colmar 1212
SS5 Hohlandsbourg-Firstplan 2 (28.67km)
1356
SS6 Vallee de Munster 2 (22.16km)
1439
SS7 Soultzeren-Pays Welche 2 (19.93km)
1555
SS8 Mulhouse (4.65km) 1835

Saturday October 6 
SS9 Massif des Grands Crus-Ungersberg 1 (18.26km) 0838
SS10 Pays d’Ormont 1 (43.45km)
0936
SS11 Pays de la Haute Bruche 1 (23.92km)
1047
SS12 Klevener 1 (10.68km) 1145
Service Strasbourg
SS13 Massif des Grands Crus-Ungersberg 2 (18.26km) 0838
SS14 Pays d’Ormont 2 (43.45km)
0936
SS15 Pays de la Haute Bruche 2 (23.92km)
1047
SS16 Klevener 2 (10.68km) 1145

Sunday October 7
SS17 Vignoble de Cleebourg 1 (17.50km)
0923
SS18 Bischwiller-Gries 1 (8.00km)
1046
SS19 Haguenau 1 (5.74km) 1116
SS20 Vignoble de Cleebourg 2 (17.50km)
1244
SS21 Bischwiller-Gries 2 (8.00km)
1407
SS22 Haguenau 2 (5.74km) 1437
Finish Strasbourg 1600

Wales Rally GB 2012 preview
September 9, 2012

PROTON Motorsports will be looking to extend its lead in the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship when the series arrives in Cardiff for this week’s Wales Rally GB.

Sweden’s P-G Andersson has won two of the last three SWRC rounds he has contested and enjoys a six-point advantage at the top of the table as the series moves into its final three rounds. 

The first of those three rallies is Rally GB, one the WRC’s most cherished events. Britain has run a round of the World Rally Championship since the series’ began in 1973 and – albeit in a very different guise – the event has been running for the last 80 years. Victory on Rally GB means a huge amount to all who take part in one of the world’s most famous rallies. And it’s SWRC victory that PROTON Motorsports is chasing this week.

There’s significant change to Rally GB for this year, with the event moving forward from its traditional final-round November date to mid-September. The long-range weather forecast is looking promising with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 20 degrees. 

As in the last two years, Rally GB runs the length of Wales, getting underway with a ceremonial start in Llandudno on the north coast Thursday (September 13). The drivers then tackle stages in the middle of the country before ending day one on the south coast in Cardiff. The weekend action is based out of the capital city, with another innovation for the event being the inclusion of a stage around Celtic Manor, the host hotel and golf course for Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in 2010. 

Joining Andersson in the PROTON factory team next week will be 20-year-old Welshman Tom Cave. Cave is the current sensation in British rallying. He contested his first round of the world championship – the 2008 Rally GB – just 10 days after being legally allowed to drive on the road aged 17. And then won his Rally GB class by 15 minutes. 

Since then, Cave has driven a semi-works PROTON on British and European rallies and won his first round of the British Rally Championship earlier this season. His first overseas win came with a stunning display of controlled and committed driving on the Rally of Thailand, his debut with PROTON Motorsports earlier this year.

Cave and Andersson both tested in Wales last month, finalising the set-up for their Satria-Neo S2000s in similar conditions to which they will drive this week.

Rally GB isn’t PROTON Motorsports’ only commitment next weekend, with the penultimate round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship – the Hokkaido Rally – in Japan also running this weekend. PROTON is represented in Obihio by reigning APRC champion driver Alister McRae (Scotland) and Juha Salo (Finland).

In addition to its preparations for Rally GB and the Hokkaido Rally, the PROTON Motorsports team was in France last week for a two-day test ahead of the Malaysian firm’s debut on the Rallye de France.  

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“We had a really good test for this event last month and the speed we showed in Finland gives me confidence for Wales. This car is really close to the top now, all the time the team is doing a great job in finding more and more speed from small areas. And we have to keep on pushing like that. For sure, [Hayden] Paddon and his Skoda will be tough to beat in Wales. He was quick, of course at home in New Zealand, but also we saw his speed in Finland – I think he can be fast anywhere now. I know these roads in Wales quite well, which can be a help. Actually, the first day I don’t know so well, I did these only one time, but from what I remember they are really nice and fast stages. I’m sure it will be a good battle and, as usual, we are starting for the win.”

Tom Cave said:
“I am incredibly excited, and of course honoured, to be contesting my home round of the FIA World Rally Championship with PROTON. Craig and I are also very proud to be the only Welshmen contesting the event, which takes place entirely within our home nation. It will be fantastic to be back in the Proton; I really enjoyed driving our Satria-Neo S2000 in 2010 – it really suited my style – and of course, was delighted to win in Thailand with the team, so to get a second opportunity is amazing.  Wales Rally GB is one of my favourite events – it's my home round of the WRC and having done the event three times before, I know a little of what the conditions and the stages can be like. 
“We appear to be having something of an Indian summer at the moment and as the event is around a month earlier than normal, hopefully the weather conditions will be a little better than we have seen in previous years. The long-range weather forecast looks like mainly dry with some light rain in the build-up to the event but certainly warmer than we have been used to – well into double figures. I think this will probably make the event faster than we have seen, with more grip from the drier stages. I think it will also make it more competitive, as when the conditions are very bad, a little local knowledge can be useful but better weather makes for a more even field.”

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said:
“The nature of this rally could change quite considerably in the shift from November to September, with a potentially drier rally being quite a lot faster than if it’s wet – and we’d be happy with that. Rallies don’t come much faster than Finland and we won there last time out. We’ve got a very good line-up in Wales this week: P-G has plenty of raw speed and the ability to win any event he goes to and Tom has tremendous maturity for his 20 years. We’ve asked Tom to play a supporting role to P-G, but I don’t see any reason why his speed shouldn’t carry him towards a podium place. With Rally GB and the Hokkaido Rally going on at the same weekend, there’s got to be plenty of excitement in the PROTON Motorsports corner of the service park. And, by the end of the weekend on both sides of the world, hopefully plenty of celebrating!”

Event data
Round: 6/8, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Based: Cardiff, Great Britain
Stages: 19
Surface: gravel
Liaison distance: 1279.13km
Competitive distance: 324.92km
Total distance: 1604.05km
Pre-event press conference: Media Centre, Cardiff (Thursday September 13, 1030)
Post-event press conference: Media Centre, Cardiff (Sunday September 16, 1615)

Event timetable
Thursday September 13
Start Llandudno 1900

Friday September 14
SS1 Dyfnant 1 (20.48km) 0813
SS2 Hafren Sweet Lamb 2 (24.87km) 0938
SS3 Myherin 3 (27.88km) 1019
Remote service Newtown 1143
SS4 Dyfnant 2 (20.48km) 1313
SS5 Hafren Sweet Lamb 2 (24.87km) 1438
SS6 Myherin 2 (27.88km) 1519
Service Cardiff 1909

Saturday September 15
SS7 Crychan 1 (19.50km) 0902
SS8 Epynt 1 (8.31km) 0940
SS9 Halfway 1 (18.35km) 1006
Service Cardiff 1220
SS10 Crychan 2 (19.50km) 1517
SS11 Epynt 2 (8.31km) 1555
SS12 Halfway 2 (18.35km) 1621
SS13 Celtic Manor (3.04km) 1830
Service Cardiff 1910

Sunday September 16
SS14 Port Talbot 1 (17.35km) 0718
SS15 Rheola 1 (8.87km) 0816
SS16 Walters Arena 1 (15.33km) 0834
Service Cardiff 1024
SS17 Port Talbot 2 (17.35km) 1207
SS18 Rheola 2 (8.87km) 1305
SS19 Walters Arena 2 (15.33km) 1323
Finish Cardiff 1536

Hokkaido Rally 2012 preview
September 9, 2012

After basking in the glory of PROTON’s victorious home run on July’s Malaysian Rally, the two factory Satria-Neo S2000s – driven by Alister McRae (Scotland) and Juha Salo (Finland) – will head for Japan and the Hokkaido Rally this week. 

The Obihiro-based event is the penultimate round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, a series dominated by PROTON Motorsports last season. The Malaysian manufacturer heads north in the Far East with real confidence after not only winning in Johor, but also taking a second victory from four rounds of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship with P-G Andersson. The Swede, who has now finished first or second on the last three SWRC rallies with PROTON, will not compete in Japan due to a clash between the Hokkaido Rally and Wales Rally GB, the latest SWRC encounter on which he drives a Satria-Neo S2000.

McRae and Salo still make a formidable partnership. McRae won the APRC drivers’ title with PROTON last year and is no stranger to the team, but seven-time Finnish champion Salo made his debut on Rally Finland last month, scoring a podium result in the process.

As the name would suggest, this week’s Hokkaido Rally runs entirely on Japan’s northern-most island. Hokkaido is home to 5.6 million people, but the mountainous and forested landscape is quite a change from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and the capital-hosting island of Honshu.  

While the rally runs in the shadow of two mountain ranges, the stages themselves are located in the Tokachi basin, which means little elevation or undulation along the generally fast and flowing, but narrow gravel roads. This is the 11th year in succession that Japan has hosted a round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and the rally remains rooted in Obihiro city, with the service park alongside the superspecial stage in Kita-Aikoku. 

Temperatures are expected to peak around 20 degrees with long periods of early autumn sunshine – Obihiro shares a similar latitude to that of the Italian capital Rome. 

The event starts – and finishes – with a run around a crowd-pleasing superspecial stage on the outskirts of Obihiro. 

Quotes:
Alister McRae said:

“We need to win this week, there’s no doubt about that. Yes, Atko [Chris Atkinson, APRC championship leader] is missing and not competing on this rally, but his team-mate Gaurav Gill has, for me, been just as quick as Chris this year and he’ll still be just as big a threat in Japan. If we hadn’t had a puncture, we could have won this rally last year and that’s the aim this time. I like the roads out there. Okay, they do get a wee bit rutted after the second and third pass, but they’re still very challenging. They’re nice and quick, but at the same time they’re narrow and twisty. 
“The work the team has done on the car really showed a good step when we won last time out in Malaysia and the new set-up will help here if the weather turns wet. If it does rain, we’ll be able to run the car softer to get better traction. Japan is a great country, with really enthusiastic fans and the chance to show those spectators what the PROTON is capable of is really important.”

Juha Salo said:
“I have competed in Asia previously, but this will be the first time for me on these roads. I am very excited to go to the rally and to represent the PROTON team. The Satria-Neo S2000 is a great car to drive, but last time I was in it, maybe it took me a little longer than I expected to get used to the car after so long in driving Group N. Now I have a good idea of what is to come and I am really looking forward to joining Alister in Japan.”

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said:
“We’ve got to look to make some good points in Japan and we’ve had the pace to win the Hokkaido Rally before and that’s what Al’s going there for this time. As for Juha, I think the roads will suit him well. He might not know the roads well, but coming from Finland he’s well acquainted with the quick stuff. We saw last time out in Finland that the changes we’d made to the car earlier in the summer worked well on the gravel and they will certainly help give the team and extra edge in Ohiro this week.”

Event data
Round: 5/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Obihiro, Japan
Stages: 18
Surface: gravel
Liaison distance: 782.06km
Competitive distance: 221.46km
Total distance: 1003.52km
Pre-event press conference: Media Centre
(Friday September 14, 1430)
Post-event press conference: Media Centre
(Sunday September 16, 1730)
Time difference: Japan is GMT+9hrs

Event timetable
Friday September 14

Start Kita Aikoku 1747
SS1 SSS Obihiro 1 (1.20km) 1800

Saturday September 15
SS2 New Kunneywa 1 (28.04km) 0809
SS3 Rikubetsu Long 1 (4.63km) 0856
Service Rikubetsu 0905
SS4 Pawse Kamuy 1 (9.98km) 1017
SS5 New Kunneywa 2 (28.04km) 1100
SS6 Rikubetsu Long 2 (4.63km) 1147
Service Rikubetsu 1156
SS7 Pawse Kamuy 2 (9.98km) 1308
SS8 New Kunneywa 3 (28.04km) 1351
SS9 Pawse Kamuy 3 (9.98km) 1503
SS10 SSS Obihiro 2 (1.20km) 1650
SS11 SSS Obihiro 3 (1.20km) 1659
Service Kita Aikoku 1705

Sunday September 16
SS12 Otofuke 1 (6.29km) 0657
SS13 New Ashoro Long 1 (29.60km) 0815
SS14 Honbetsu 1 (10.78km) 0928
Service Kita Aikoku 1038
SS15 Otofuke 2 (6.29km) 1205
SS16 New Ashoro Long 2 (29.60km) 1323
SS17 Honbetsu 2 (10.78km) 1436
SS18 SSS Obihiro 4 (1.20km) 1549
Finish Kita Aikoku 1617

Hokkaido Rally 2012 preview
September 9, 2012

After basking in the glory of PROTON’s victorious home run on July’s Malaysian Rally, the two factory Satria-Neo S2000s – driven by Alister McRae (Scotland) and Juha Salo (Finland) – will head for Japan and the Hokkaido Rally this week. 

The Obihiro-based event is the penultimate round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, a series dominated by PROTON Motorsports last season. The Malaysian manufacturer heads north in the Far East with real confidence after not only winning in Johor, but also taking a second victory from four rounds of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship with P-G Andersson. The Swede, who has now finished first or second on the last three SWRC rallies with PROTON, will not compete in Japan due to a clash between the Hokkaido Rally and Wales Rally GB, the latest SWRC encounter on which he drives a Satria-Neo S2000.

McRae and Salo still make a formidable partnership. McRae won the APRC drivers’ title with PROTON last year and is no stranger to the team, but seven-time Finnish champion Salo made his debut on Rally Finland last month, scoring a podium result in the process.

As the name would suggest, this week’s Hokkaido Rally runs entirely on Japan’s northern-most island. Hokkaido is home to 5.6 million people, but the mountainous and forested landscape is quite a change from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and the capital-hosting island of Honshu.  

While the rally runs in the shadow of two mountain ranges, the stages themselves are located in the Tokachi basin, which means little elevation or undulation along the generally fast and flowing, but narrow gravel roads. This is the 11th year in succession that Japan has hosted a round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and the rally remains rooted in Obihiro city, with the service park alongside the superspecial stage in Kita-Aikoku. 

Temperatures are expected to peak around 20 degrees with long periods of early autumn sunshine – Obihiro shares a similar latitude to that of the Italian capital Rome. 

The event starts – and finishes – with a run around a crowd-pleasing superspecial stage on the outskirts of Obihiro. 

Quotes:
Alister McRae said:

“We need to win this week, there’s no doubt about that. Yes, Atko [Chris Atkinson, APRC championship leader] is missing and not competing on this rally, but his team-mate Gaurav Gill has, for me, been just as quick as Chris this year and he’ll still be just as big a threat in Japan. If we hadn’t had a puncture, we could have won this rally last year and that’s the aim this time. I like the roads out there. Okay, they do get a wee bit rutted after the second and third pass, but they’re still very challenging. They’re nice and quick, but at the same time they’re narrow and twisty. 
“The work the team has done on the car really showed a good step when we won last time out in Malaysia and the new set-up will help here if the weather turns wet. If it does rain, we’ll be able to run the car softer to get better traction. Japan is a great country, with really enthusiastic fans and the chance to show those spectators what the PROTON is capable of is really important.”

Juha Salo said:
“I have competed in Asia previously, but this will be the first time for me on these roads. I am very excited to go to the rally and to represent the PROTON team. The Satria-Neo S2000 is a great car to drive, but last time I was in it, maybe it took me a little longer than I expected to get used to the car after so long in driving Group N. Now I have a good idea of what is to come and I am really looking forward to joining Alister in Japan.”

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said:
“We’ve got to look to make some good points in Japan and we’ve had the pace to win the Hokkaido Rally before and that’s what Al’s going there for this time. As for Juha, I think the roads will suit him well. He might not know the roads well, but coming from Finland he’s well acquainted with the quick stuff. We saw last time out in Finland that the changes we’d made to the car earlier in the summer worked well on the gravel and they will certainly help give the team and extra edge in Ohiro this week.”

Event data
Round: 5/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Obihiro, Japan
Stages: 18
Surface: gravel
Liaison distance: 782.06km
Competitive distance: 221.46km
Total distance: 1003.52km
Pre-event press conference: Media Centre (Friday September 14, 1430)
Post-event press conference: Media Centre (Sunday September 16, 1730)
Time difference: Japan is GMT+9hrs

Event timetable
Friday September 14
Start Kita Aikoku 1747
SS1 SSS Obihiro 1 (1.20km) 1800

Saturday September 15
SS2 New Kunneywa 1 (28.04km)
0809
SS3 Rikubetsu Long 1 (4.63km)
0856
Service Rikubetsu 0905
SS4 Pawse Kamuy 1 (9.98km) 1017
SS5 New Kunneywa 2 (28.04km)
1100
SS6 Rikubetsu Long 2 (4.63km)
1147
Service Rikubetsu 1156
SS7 Pawse Kamuy 2 (9.98km) 1308
SS8 New Kunneywa 3 (28.04km)
1351
SS9 Pawse Kamuy 3 (9.98km) 1503
SS10 SSS Obihiro 2 (1.20km)
1650
SS11 SSS Obihiro 3 (1.20km)
1659
Service Kita Aikoku 1705

Sunday September 16
SS12 Otofuke 1 (6.29km) 0657
SS13 New Ashoro Long 1 (29.60km)
0815
SS14 Honbetsu 1 (10.78km) 0928
Service Kita Aikoku 1038
SS15 Otofuke 2 (6.29km) 1205
SS16 New Ashoro Long 2 (29.60km)
1323
SS17 Honbetsu 2 (10.78km) 1436
SS18 SSS Obihiro 4 (1.20km)
1549
Finish Kita Aikoku 1617

PROTON Motorsports to focus on twin 2012 title tilt
August 15, 2012

Current FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship leader and defending FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion PROTON Motorsports has shifted the focus of its programme in an effort to land two major FIA titles in 2012.


PROTON is flying in its pursuit of the two FIA titles this year.

Recent SWRC Rally Finland winner and series leader P-G Andersson (Sweden) will contest the remaining SWRC rounds in a PROTON Satria-Neo S2000, aiming to add the Super 2000 title to the two FIA Junior World Rally Championship crowns he took in 2006 and 2007. And reigning FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Alister McRae (Great Britain) will spearhead the Malaysian manufacturer’s attack on the final two rounds of the FIA APRC, aiming to become the first Briton to take back-to-back APRC titles. 

Joining McRae on the next APRC round (Rally Hokkaido, September 15/16) will be seven-time Finnish Champion Juha Salo with British driver Tom Cave partnering Andersson in the team for Rally GB (September 12-16). 

Salo made his PROTON Motorsports debut on his native Rally Finland earlier this month and was immediately on the SWRC pace. The Finn delivered the podium result which PROTON had been hoping for on the Jyvaskyla-based event. And beyond that, Salo impressed the team with the swift adjustment of his driving style to a Super 2000 car, having spent his career in more standard Group N machinery. 

Cave is no stranger to PROTON, having competed in the Satria-Neo S2000 on numerous occasions in 2010. He returned to the squad in June this year to dominate the Rally of Thailand, winning 11 of 13 stages on his way to a commanding victory on his first event in Asia. 

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said: “The way the season has progressed, we now have very strong chances to win in both the FIA SWRC and APRC series and we have to maximise those opportunities – and that’s what this reshuffle is all about. When we started this season, we knew there would be decisions to make for the clash of Rally Hokkaido and Rally GB and we’re fortunate to have P-G in the lead of SWRC and Alister second in the APRC, so the choice of which driver went where really made itself.

“We’re doubly fortunate to have a driver of Juha’s ability to call on in Japan. Juha settled into the team brilliantly when he was at home in Finland and showed real pace on the faster roads. The stages in Japan are also really quick and we’re confident he’ll be able to go out there and deliver another very strong result for PROTON Motorsports. And British rally fans need no introduction to Tom Cave. He’s leading the British Rally Championship at the moment and is one of the sport’s brightest young stars. He showed tremendous maturity in the way he won in Thailand earlier this year and his home SWRC round next month will provide him with a genuine chance to showcase his talent on rallying’s highest possible stage.”

Neste Oils Rally Finland preview
July 28, 2012

And the roads just keep getting faster...

After a pace-setting second place on some of the smoothest and fastest roads in the southern hemisphere, the PROTON Motorsports team return top-side of the equator for round five of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, next week’s Neste Oils Rally Finland. 

And Finland, if you didn’t know, is the fastest of the fast. Not for nothing is this event known locally as the Jyvaskyla Suurajot, Jyvaskyla Grand Prix. 

Across the spread of the SWRC season, the crews will not drive their cars faster or fly them further than they will in Finland next week. And the PROTON Motorsports team arrives with one result in mind: a win.

Having set the pace through the early part of the season, the Malaysian manufacturer has been unlucky not to register more than a single success on Rally Sweden. P-G Andersson (Sweden) and Juha Salo (Finland) aim to put that right through the woods of central Finland next week.

PROTON has tested extensively for this event, having worked on a new specification for the Satria-Neo S2000 – which won out of the box on the Malaysian Rally round of the APRC earlier this month. Most recently, Andersson and Salo drove the test car for two days in Estonia and will shake their rally cars down at an official test close to rally HQ in Jyvaskyla tomorrow (Sunday July 29).

Next week will be the first time Finnish fans will have the chance to see the PROTON Satria-Neo S2000 in action. And, for an event which has been dominated by locals (only four times in the WRC history of Rally Finland has this event been won by anybody other than a Nordic driver), PROTON is very happy to have Nordics in its two factory Satria-Neo S2000s.

As has become the norm on this event in recent years, the mainstay of the action will take place through Friday and Saturday. The event starts on Thursday (August 2) afternoon with three stages (one of which, Mynnila is completely new) in the Lahti area providing the perfect loosener for two days of flat-out sport.

And the great names which have become associated with Rally Finland, nee the 1,000 Lakes, are all in place. From shakedown over the rollercoaster road of Ruuhimaki all the way through to the classic Ouninpohja finale, next week’s Rally Finland is going to be one of the highlights of the season.

Prepare for takeoff…

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“After driving on such slow and twisty roads [on the last APRC round] in Malaysia, coming here to Finland is completely the opposite – the roads here are so fast. It definitely takes you some time to remember just how hard you can push and how hard you can drive cars through these corners. Like all drivers, I love to fly and this is one of my favourite rallies of the year; it’s a fantastic feeling to take off in the car when you are absolutely flat out in sixth gear. In Malaysia, we saw that the new homologation was working well and it’s clear after the test that it’s already really helping in the high-speed roads as well. I need to win this SWRC round and I feel we have the speed to do that – we saw that on the last SWRC event in New Zealand. And now we are coming back to my home rally a little bit more. Hayden Paddon won at his home, now I am ready to take him on closer to my home. It’s going to be a great event.”  

Juha Salo said:
“Every time I get out of this car, I’ve got a bit smile on my face! It’s incredible to be here with the PROTON Motorsports team and in the Satria-Neo S2000 – this is definitely the biggest opportunity of my life. I did already a test in Wales, but then another day in Estonia yesterday (Thursday) which was really useful for me; I am lucky that Chris has given me so much time in the car, this has helped me to adapt my driving style. I have driven Group N cars for so long, but this is a completely different style with S2000 car – it’s like a switch. I have turned off Group N in my head and turned on S2000. Of course, I am wanting to win SWRC in Finland, that is the dream result, but I have to remember this is the first really big competition for me in this car and I have to make sure I am at the finish of the rally for PROTON.”

Chris Mellors (MEM team principal) said:
“We’re all feeling very happy with the car after the test, we found some great roads which are really representative of Finland. We did a couple of hundred kilometres yesterday and the same again today and we’ve had no issues at all. The car and the crews are all looking in great shape. We’ve got a very strong team here: P-G’s pedigree is obviously very well known – and he’s shown tremendous speed in Finland before and having a Finn in the other car is great, because this is such a specialised event. The changes we made to the car before Malaysia improved the Satria further and we’re confident of taking that another step in Finland next week. The car’s got better traction and balance and it understeers less. All-in-all, we’ve got a very well-behaved car in time for the next round of the SWRC.” 

Event data
Round: 5/8, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Based: Jyvaskyla, Finland
Stages: 18
Surface: gravel
Liaison distance: 1,322.17km
Competitive distance: 303.52km
Total distance: 1,625.69km
Pre-event press conference: Media Centre (Wednesday August 1, 2200)
Post-event press conference: Media Centre (Saturday August 4, 2145)
Time difference: Jyvaskyla is GMT+2hrs

Event timetable
Thursday August 2

Start Jyvaskyla, Paviljonki 1330
SS1 Koukunmaa (13.68km) 1723
SS2 SSS Jokimaa (2.00km) 1900
SS3 Mynnila (14.22km) 2050
Service Jyvasklya 2235

Friday August 3
SS4 Urria (12.75km) 0742
SS5 Jukojarvi (22.29km) 0839
Service Jyvaskyla 0952
SS6 Mokkipera 1 (11.38km) 1128
SS7 Palsankyla 1 (13.92km) 1214
SS8 Lankamaa 1 (23.06km) 1332
Service Jyvaskyla 1445
SS9 Mokkipera 2 (11.38km) 1608
SS10 Palsankyla 2 (13.92km) 1654
SS11 Lankamaa 2 (23.06km) 1812
SS12 Killeri (2.06km) 2000
Service Jyvaskyla 2030

Saturday August 4
SS13 Surkee 1 (14.95km) 0756
SS14 Leustu 1 (21.94km) 0854
Service Jyvaskyla 1007
SS15 Surkee 2 (14.95km) 1118
SS16 Leustu 2 (21.94km) 1216
Service Jyvaskyla 1329
SS17 Ouninpohja 1 (33.01km) 1537
SS18 Ouninpohja 2 (33.01km) 1800
Finish Jyvaskyla 2100

Malaysian Rally 2012 review
July 15, 2012

The PROTON Motorsports team is celebrating a second successive victory on the Malaysian Rally, its home round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, which finished in Johor this afternoon.

As usual, the conditions on the Malaysian round of the series were some of the toughest of the year. But the PROTON Satria-Neo S2000 was up to the challenge and reigning APRC champion Alister McRae collected his – and the Malaysian manufacturer’s – biggest ever win in the FIA series; the Scot won the fourth round of the championship by more than 25 minutes.

Having scored an incredible first and third on the Malaysian Rally last year, PROTON was looking for an even better result this time around. And, earlier today, the Satria-Neo S2000s were delivering that dream, running first and second with P-G Andersson (Sweden) leading McRae to leave the rest of the APRC field trailing in their wake.

Having led from early in the first day, where McRae dropped a minute and a half with a slow right-rear puncture, Andersson’s heroic Malaysian Rally debut was ended by a minor electrical issue on his car in SS10. McRae continued to set the pace from the front, posting fastest or second fastest time on every one of leg two’s seven stages. 

The conditions on the event were wet yesterday, with heavy rain making the plantation stages in particular extremely slippery. On today’s second and final day, however, the rain ceased and the crews were greeted by bright sunshine and extremely hot conditions on the forest roads around the base in Johor Bahru. 

The Malaysian manufacturer arrived at its home round of the APRC in confident mood, having secured a 10-minute victory on the Rally of Thailand in the run-up to the event. But, on the all-important Malaysian Rally, ahead of tens of thousands of partisan home fans, McRae and his co-driver Bill Hayes (Australia) delivered the perfect result: a massive win and a massive boost for Malaysia and its motorsport-supporting public. 

McRae and Andersson were using a revised specification of Satria-Neo S2000 for the first time this weekend, with the car featuring upgrades from the latest homologation. Both drivers were delighted with the steps made by PROTON to the car which dominated last year’s APRC.

Those advances will now be carried into the next round of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, Rally Finland (August 2-4), which is the next outing for the Malaysian manufacturer. Having dominated the early running in the SWRC, Andersson will be looking for a second series win of the season to move him back into pole position for the title.

Quotes:
Alister McRae said:

“It’s fantastic to take this win for PROTON – and to see the kind of enjoyment and delight it brings to all the people who work and support PROTON. Behind a team like ours, there are a lot of people who we don’t see on every round pushing hard to make this happen and a result like this is great for them. For us, the start was quite frustrating. We had a puncture going into the second stage; we’d gone into the control so we couldn’t change the tyre and it just went softer and softer through the stage. With the conditions like they were yesterday, we just had to try and stay on the road. We got through and moved into second this morning. It was a real shame for P-G: a one-two would have been perfect for PROTON, but this is such a tough event – as tough as I remember from last year. We moved into the lead and then, with such a big gap, we just had to manage that [25-minute] advantage and get to the finish. The rain stopped today, but it was extremely hot – so hot! The win moves me back into second place in the championship, which is great news for us. Now we need to make sure we do the same next time out on Rally Japan (September 14-16).”

P-G Andersson said:
“This event was everything which I had been told it would be; it was hot, wet, humid and extremely slippery. The road on the first day was just like ice, so hard to drive on, but the car and the tyres worked very well. We had no problems and, once I had some idea of what the roads would be like, we were able to push a little bit harder and lead. Everything was looking good going to the second day, Alister was into second place and everything was perfect for PROTON. Unfortunately the car stopped and we had to retire. It’s very tough, because everything had been going well for us. Now, we look forward to Finland and the next SWRC round – that’s quite a different rally to this one. This event was really tight and twisty in some places, but Finland is fast with lots of jumps.”

Chris Mellors MEM team principal said: 
“This was a very important win for the PROTON Motorsports team. Competing at home always brings more pressure and expectation and, for the second year in succession, we have dominated our home event to win. It's tough for P-G. We are investigating the fault in his car, but it's so frustrating that it didn't miss a beat until that point. Alister's car was perfect throughout the weekend, just like our reigning Asia-Pacific Rally Champion himself! We came here with a new specification for the Satria-Neo S2000 and it's great to see the way the team's hard work has delivered the result that counts in front of all our fans and fellow PROTON workers. This win is for them as much as for everybody.”

Event data
Round: 4/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Stages: 15
Surface: gravel
Liaison distance: 353.70km
Competitive distance: 235.28km
Total distance: 588.98km
Conditions: rain then sunshine 35 degrees

The 2012 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Rally of Whangarei (March 30-April 1) PROTON 2nd/4th 
Rally de Nouvelle Caledonie (April 27-29) PROTON 4th
International Rally of Queensland (May 25-27) PROTON 2nd/4th
Malaysian Rally (July 13-15) PROTON 1st 
Rally Hokkaido (September 14-16)
China Rally Longyou (October 26-28)

Malaysian Rally 2012 preview
July 9, 2012

After a dominant performance on last year’s Malaysian Rally, PROTON Motorsports will be looking to repeat its double podium at home when round four of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship gets underway in Johor this week.

The Malaysian Rally always poses one of the toughest challenges in an already unforgiving FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. The high ambient temperatures added to near 100 per cent humidity puts a significant level of stress on the crew. Competing in hot rally cars in those conditions will provide a stern test of fitness and hydration.

In readiness for the most important event of the season, PROTON Motorsports has homologated new parts and arrives with the Satria-Neo S2000 running in an evolved specification.

Last year, PROTON Motorsports and the Satria-Neo S2000 was more than a match for those exacting circumstances, taking a much celebrated first and third to the acclaim of the thousands of Malaysian fans who had turned out in the hope of such home-grown success.

And this year, PROTON Motorsports is looking to repeat that feeling of national fervor on the roads around Johor Bahru. And those roads are some of the twistiest and most technical in the series. Running through the forests and plantations of Kota Tinggi, in the north-east of the Johor region, the constant stream of corners simply don’t allow the drivers to build up enough speed to maintain a high level of airflow into the car, pushing the crew and the cars to their limits. 

While the event falls outside of the traditional monsoon season, fans standing at the side of the stages waiting to see the bright yellow Satria-Neo S2000s will be prepared to get wet – torrential rain is never far away in this part of the world. And that rain can transform the roads, slashing grip levels and turning them into virtual skating rinks for rally cars. The unpredictability and immediacy of the climate will turn this event something of a lottery if the weather does turn wet. 

This week’s Malaysian Rally will be one of the most popular in the series, running as it does in the middle of one of south-east Asia’s most populated regions – with more than eight million people in the metropolitan area of the Sijori Growth Triangle. 

And virtually every one of those people will be cheering for PROTON Motorsports drivers P-G Andersson (Sweden) and Alister McRae (Great Britain), the men who will be shouldering the hopes and dreams of a nation as they wheel their Satria-Neo S2000s towards the stages.

Andersson and McRae were both in action on the recent FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship-qualifying Rally New Zealand, where Andersson led the category before finishing second. And PROTON itself arrives in Johor Bahru on the back of a dominant win for the Satria-Neo S2000 on the Rally of Thailand. 

Tom Cave (Great Britain) took a 10-minute victory in Thailand.

But next week is all about round four of the FIA APRC. The action gets underway on Friday evening with the first of three runs around a superspecial stage at the Angsana shopping complex – but it’s the weekend on those tricky dirt roads which will really decide the outcome of this rally.  

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“It’s always exciting to go to the home rally for the team and I’m really looking forward to Malaysia. Of course, it brings some extra pressure, but I think we’re ready for it. Realistically, I need to win this rally to make sure the championship is still possible, but we have shown pace to win earlier in the year. We have new parts on the car for this event. We have done a lot of testing ahead of this homologation and we start the first event with the new specification and a good feeling in the car. The changes we have made will give the car better traction from the corners. I haven’t been to Malaysia before, but from what I understand there are lots of tight corners where this will help. The other thing people are talking to me about for Malaysia is the heat and the humidity. Coming from Sweden, this is not something I am really used to, but I’m sure it will be fine. We have been doing a lot of training and drinking plenty of fluids. I have done some really hot rallies in the past, but the humidity is going to be something new and interesting.”

Alister McRae said:
“This is always one of the toughest rounds of the championship and really nothing can prepare you completely for the conditions. The team has worked really hard on the car and we certainly felt a difference when we were competing [in the SWRC] in New Zealand and with the new parts, it’s going to be even better. The ability to get the car out of these tight corners quickly is of paramount importance in Malaysia and that’s one of the things the guys have worked on. Beyond the actual driving, Malaysian Rally is, of course, a big deal for PROTON. It’s always fantastic to compete on a manufacturer’s home event and to see the interest and excitement which they have for the programme. What we want is to really give them something to cheer and to deliver a repeat of last year’s result – or event to go one better and do a one-two!”

Event data
Round: 4/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Stages: 15
Surface: gravel
Liaison distance: 353.70km
Competitive distance: 235.28km
Total distance: 588.98km
Pre-event press conference: Angsana shopping complex (Friday July 13, 1000)
Time difference: Malaysia is GMT+8hrs

Event timetable
Friday July 13
Start Angsana 2120
SS1 Angsana 1 (2.50km) 2125
Saturday July 14
SS2 Tai Tak – HQ (32.94km) 1108
SS3 Tai Tak-Pipeline (24.57km) 1206
SS4 Tai Tak – Fish Pond (17.69km) 1244
Service Angsana 1409
SS5 Tai Tak – HQ (32.94km) 1602
SS6 Tai Tak-Pipeline (24.57km) 1700
SS7 Tai Tak – Fish Pond (17.69km) 1738
SS8 Angsana 2 (2.50km) 1906
Service Angsana 1914

Sunday July 15
SS9 Tai Tak- Court House (12.46km) 0805
SS10 Tai Tak – Lukut (11.97km) 0829
SS11 Tai Tak – Mawai (14.26km) 0856
Service Angsana 1026
SS12 Tai Tak- Court House (12.46km) 1229
SS13 Tai Tak – Lukut (11.97km) 1253
SS14 Tai Tak – Mawai (14.26km) 1320
SS15 Angsana 3 (2.50km) 1453
Finish Angsana 1600

News release
July 2, 2012

PROTON Motorsports dominated last weekend’s Rally of Thailand – with Tom Cave taking his first international win in a Satria-Neo S2000 and the Malaysian manufacturer banking plenty of useful data on the Far Eastern event.


Tom cave and Craig Parry take runaway victory

With Rally of Thailand tipped for inclusion in next year’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, PROTON entered Cave and his co-driver Craig Parry in an effort to find out more about the event. The British pair won 11 from 13 stages to take the runaway victory by more than 10 minutes. Despite searing heat and humidity, the Satria-Neo S2000, like the crew, didn’t miss a beat.

PROTON Motorsports team principal Chris Mellors said: “Thailand is a key market for PROTON and this was a rally we were very interested to look at. The event was great, well-organised and very, very good stages. I think it’s fair to say these were the toughest conditions Tom had driven in, but he did a very good job for us. He was a minute and a half faster than anybody on the first stage proper and managed the gap with a sensible and very professional drive until the finish.

“As far as we were concerned, it was mission accomplished on all fronts: we learned plenty about a rally we’d like to see on the APRC calendar next year and Tom and Craig took a dominant win for PROTON and the Satria-Neo S2000.”

Cave added:
“I am delighted we were able to deliver the result for PROTON, justifying the team’s faith in us – but I have to say, this was the hardest weekend of rallying I have ever done. The stages were very demanding. One 28-kilometre stage had 94 junctions, so I was very busy. When I saw the times I knew we just had to maintain that pace and not make any mistakes. The feeling in the car was fantastic.”

PROTON will continue its defence of both the manufacturers’ and drivers’ APRC titles on the Malaysian Rally 2012 (July 12-14),
when P-G Andersson and Alister McRae return to the factory
Satria-Neo S2000s. 

 

Rally New Zealand review
June 24, 2012

The PROTON Motorsports team scored valuable points and plenty of fastest stage times on its latest outing in the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, Rally New Zealand which ended in Auckland this afternoon (Sunday).


P.G. Anderson in full flight during Rally New Zealand

Two-time FIA Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson and reigning FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Alister McRae were spearheading the challenge from the Malaysian manufacturer and the pair made the perfect start to the North Island event. Both drivers were immediately on SWRC podium pace, with Andersson setting a storming time through the opening stage to beat many of the World Rally Cars and post eighth quickest overall.

Having moved into a 15-second lead in just two stages – a lead which would have been considerably bigger if he hadn’t spun in SS2 – Andersson’s hopes of a second successive SWRC victory (he dominated Rally Sweden to win by three minutes in February) were dashed when he went off the road on the third stage.

McRae stepped up and remained firmly in the lead battle, with almost three minutes in hand over the third-placed car after as many stages. Unfortunately for the Scot, a glitch in the car’s wiring loom left him on the sidelines on the roads around Raglan, south of Auckland.


Mcrae cuts some shapes in the Proton Satria S2000

Both cars returned to the action at the weekend, setting more fastest times on the classic Northland gravel roads. McRae’s fourth place was lost to a clutch-release bearing failure late in the event.

After the sunshine, rain and showers of a typical New Zealand winter, the PROTON Motorsports team will now head home for the Malaysian Rally (July 12-14) where they will hope to repeat or even better the stunning first and third places they achieved on that rally last season.

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“We have taken points for second place here, which is OK for the championship, but we could have won this rally. The car has never felt so good as it did on this rally. I had perfect balance and a great chassis and engine. Everything was going well for us early on in the event, we were fastest on the first two stages without pushing too hard, although we did have a spin on Whaanga Coast. Everything was feeling good in the next stage as well, but we had a pace note wrong for a medium-speed left-hand bend. We were too fast into the corner and, to be honest, I never really got the car into the bend before we went straight on and off the road. The car wasn’t damaged but it just wasn’t possible to get it back to the road. It’s really frustrating to go off at any time, but when you have such a good package in the car and you know you are going to be in with a shot at winning again, it’s really, really tough. We came back but then caught a rock on the last stage on Saturday and pulled the wheel off the car, which cost more time. Like I said, we got second place, but I really wanted first.” 

Alister McRae said:
“It was great to be back on these roads again and having been down here earlier this year [for the International Rally of Whangarei], P-G and I both felt pretty happy ahead of the event. The car felt good from the start, but we then had a problem with the wiring loom which stopped the car. The team fixed the issue and we were able to run fastest in SWRC before a clutch-release bearing failed today. It was a little bit frustrating, because everything was feeling so good with the car, it had all looked pretty promising.”

Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood (Head of PROTON Motorsports) said:
“The PROTON Motorsports team has shown great speed on this latest round of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, especially on today's stages. The roads closer to Auckland today are all new for the rally this year, and are quite different in nature from the rest of the route. Today is narrower, more twisty and more technical - yet the Satria-Neo S2000 and both P-G and Alister have been fastest. P-G deserved to win Rallye Monte Carlo, did win Rally Sweden and definitely showed the speed to win here in New Zealand. Taking second place away from this rally is going to help for P-G in his fight for this year's FIA SWRC title.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We go away from this rally with second place, which keeps P-G in the thick of the fight for the SWRC title. But the main positive from here, however, is the pace the cars have shown. Both of the guys have gone well; obviously it’s pretty frustrating that P-G went off the road on Friday morning, but what speed before he did go off – that was incredible to see the Satria-Neo S2000 up there beating the likes of Dani Sordo in a Mini World Rally Car. We know we’ve got the speed to win these events and now we’re really looking forward to Rally Finland in a couple of months. Having seen how quick the car is on these kind of fast gravel roads, it’s great news to know we have a Finn [Juha Salo] joining P-G in the team for our next SWRC outing.”

Event data
Round: 4/8, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Based: Auckland, New Zealand
Stages: 22
Surface: gravel
Liaison distance: 1,243.96km
Competitive distance: 413.94km
Total distance: 1,657.90km
Conditions: rain and sunshine, 15 degrees



IRC - GARETH ROBERTS:

Following the accident on SS8 of the Targa Florio Rally, PROTON Motorsports team principal Chris Mellors would like to pass on the following message on behalf of the whole team:

“PROTON Motorsports would like to offer its sincere sympathies to Gareth Roberts’ family and friends. Our thoughts go out to Craig Breen and his team, who we have been battling with in this year’s Super 2000 World Rally Championship . We are all deeply saddened by the news from last Saturday morning. Gareth was one of Britain’s brightest co-driving talents and for his life to be cut short is a tragedy.” 

 

Rally New Zealand preview
June 15, 2012

The PROTON Motorsports team will look to further its dominance of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship when it arrives in Auckland for Rally New Zealand next week.

The fourth round of the 2012 SWRC starts from Auckland on Thursday June 21 and includes 22 stages run wholly on New Zealand’s North Island. 

The Malaysian manufacturer collected a three-minute victory on Rally Sweden, its last SWRC outing, while lead driver P-G Andersson had been seven minutes ahead on the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally before he was forced out on the final day in the French Alps. 

The PROTON Motorsports team elected the miss the third round of the Super 2000 WRC in Portugal, due to a clash with its FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship commitments, where PROTON is defending its drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles. Andersson and his Scottish team-mate Alister McRae will drive the two factory Satria-Neo S2000s on the roads north and south of the Rally New Zealand’s Auckland base. 

Rally New Zealand is always one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the calendar with the drivers enjoying the heavily cambered North Island roads, while the sport-mad locals provide a great welcome to the regulars of world rallying. And the route for next week’s fourth round (from eight) of the SWRC will be a classic, with plenty of new stages and the rally’s longest competitive distance since the 1995 event.

After a city centre start from Auckland, the event heads south to the beautiful coastal town of Raglan, around which day one is centred. And the drivers themselves capture the best view of the Tasman coast as they hustle their rally cars along what has to be one of the most picturesque – and therefore most photographed – stretches of road in the series, the Whaanga Coast stage. 

Day two takes the crews in the opposite direction as they head north to Whangarei for a second challenging leg, before Sunday’s final loop of stages based around Auckland – including two runs through the Auckland Domain test, which will thrill the thousands of fans turning out to watch the action at the heart of the nation’s largest centre of population. 

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“It’s great to be back in the PROTON again and what better place than New Zealand? This is a fantastic rally and incredible roads. The stages are always really smooth, which means it’s not so demanding on the car – allowing you to have quite a straight race with the other drivers. Of course, it is the winter in New Zealand, though, so this does mean that we could have some rain or some changing weather. Let’s see what comes, but we are certainly going down there chasing another SWRC win – it seems like a very long time since we were out on the last SWRC round, spraying the champagne on my home rally in February!”  

Alister McRae said:
“Rally New Zealand is always a favourite among the drivers. The fast and flowing nature of the roads encourage you to attack and push harder. The roads work with you on this event, you can use the camber of the road to pull you through the corner – at times you can be a gear higher than you would be on the same sort of bend without the camber. It’s great that P-G and I have been down here already once this year, that’s given us a good chance to dial ourselves into the specific nature of these stages.”

Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood (Head of PROTON Motorsports) said:
“It’s exciting to rejoin the SWRC after a hectic schedule competing in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship. P-G Andersson is fourth in the FIA SWRC drivers’ standings after only two rounds, while Alister McRae is in eighth position. We did not compete in the Rally of Portugal and, therefore, being one round down, you can be certain that the two drivers will be out gunning for maximum points. The team enjoyed a good run in New Zealand in March during the APRC round, where Andersson and McRae finished second and fourth respectively. The special stages may not be identical for this SWRC round, but they are similar and with both drivers feeling comfortable with the terrain they will be able to push the Satria Neo S2000 to a competitive pace. Ideally, we look forward to repeating the outstanding performance and overall victory in Sweden.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We are very much looking forward to getting back down to New Zealand and having a good run – we won on these stages in APRC last year, so have a good idea of what to expect. And both of the guys have good experience of New Zealand and they love the stages, so we’re going to be pushing hard for a second win in three SWRC outings so far this season. Undoubtedly, there will be some tough competition – not least from [Hayden] Paddon. We’re in his backyard in New Zealand: he knows the stages very well, he’s a quick lad in a quick car, so he’s going to make us work for it.” 

Event data
Round: 4/8, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Based: Auckland, New Zealand
Stages: 22
Surface: gravel
Liaison distance: 1,243.96km
Competitive distance: 413.94km
Total distance: 1,657.90km
Pre-event press conference: Viaduct Events Centre (Thursday June 21, 1730)
Post-event press conference: Viaduct Events Centre (Sunday June 24, 1615)
Time difference: Auckland is GMT+12hrs

Event timetable
Friday June 22

Start Auckland 0600
SS1 Te Hutewai 1 (11.18km) 0828
SS2 Whaanga Coast 1 (29.67km)
0851
SS3 Te Akau South 1 (31.82km)
1024
SS4 Te Akau North 1 (32.13km)
1107
Remote service Raglan 1237
SS5 Te Hutewai 2 (11.18km) 1333
SS6 Whaanga Coast 2 (29.67km)
1356
SS7 Te Akau South 2 (31.82km)
1529
SS8 Te Akau North 2 (32.13km)
1612
Service Auckland 1842

Saturday June 23
SS9 Batley (17.61km) 0913
SS10 Mititai 1 (23.22km) 1001
SS11 Girls High School 1 (26.99km)
1034
Remote service Whangarei 1144
SS12 Waipu Gorge (11.38km) 1402
SS13 Brooks (13.60km) 1425
SS14 Mititai 2 (23.22km) 1508
SS15 Girls High School 1 (26.99km)
1541
Service Auckland 1900

Sunday June 24
SS16 Burnside/Wech Access 1 (7.30km) 0808
SS17 Puhoi 1 (17.94km) 0826
SS18 Auckland Domain 1 (2.05km)
0944
Service Auckland 1004
SS19 Auckland Domain 2 (2.05km)
1128
SS20 Puhoi 2 (17.94km) 1236
SS21 Ahura (6.75km) 1309
SS22 Burnside/Wech Access 2 (7.30km) 1340
Finish Auckland 1530

 

News release
June 15, 2012

Seven-time Finnish Rally Champion Juha Salo will join the PROTON Motorsports team for this year’s Neste Oil Rally Finland and Wales Rally GB.


Salo testing the S2000 at Sweet Lamb Chop, Wales

The news that Salo, 36, will partner two-time Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson on each round of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship was confirmed at a press conference in Helsinki this morning. Salo’s two-rally PROTON programme is supported by principal backers Gulf Oil and Teknos, as well as a collection of 15 other sponsors.

The Finn, a two-time Group N winner on his home round of the World Rally Championship, drove the PROTON Satria-Neo S2000 for the first time in Wales on Monday, completing 160 kilometres at the wheel of the factory test car. The Jyvaskyla-based event will be his first SWRC outing in a Super 2000 car.

August’s Neste Oil Rally Finland will be the reigning Finnish Champion’s eighth start on one of world rallying’s most iconic events.

Salo said: “In the spring time I was talking with my management group about the different possibilities for Rally Finland. We saw last year it was not possible to fight with S2000 cars unless you had the same equipment. So, we contacted PROTON Motorsport and then visited them in England.

“I believe that we can get the best possible service and support from PROTON Motorsports and I have to thank them and, of course, Gulf Oil, Teknos and all my other sponsors for helping me to achieve this biggest step yet in my driving career. I believe that if I do everything right then it is possible to continue this co-operation into the future. I wouldn’t be a rally driver if I didn’t think about victory and I know that I have all the right tools to make this result. Everything is in my hands.

“It is fantastic to drive the PROTON Satria-Neo S2000. This is a top-level car and quite different to what I have been driving before. It is much more physical to drive; you need to concentrate, to keep the revs up and you have to be more aggressive. This is a real competition car, pure and simple. Everything is fantastic with the car – especially the brakes, it’s like hitting the wall when you are stopping!

“I need to use my long experience for the team in Finland, I don’t need to push myself over the limit. The experience of the car and giving PROTON a good result is more important than anything.”

PROTON Motorsports team principal Chris Mellors is equally pleased to be running a Finn in Finland.

Mellors said: “Juha was very comfortable very quickly in the car during the test. He was very good to work with and has a great attitude. I’m sure he’s going to fit into the team perfectly. He’s got some incredible experience of Rally Finland and the roads we’re going to be competing on this year; you don’t win seven Finnish titles without knowing how to drive those stages! We’re looking forward to putting that experience to good use. With Juha and P-G we’ll have a very strong line-up in Finland.”

Salo will test the Satria-Neo S2000 in Finland ahead of the start of the SWRC round.

Neste Oil Rally Finland (SWRC round five) runs from August 1-4 and Wales Rally GB (SWRC round six) is September 13-16.

PROTON Motorsports now focuses its attention on the fourth round of the SWRC, Rally New Zealand, which begins in Auckland next Thursday (June 21). P-G Andersson and PROTON’s reigning FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Alister McRae drive the factory Satria-Neo S2000s on the North Island.

 

International Rally of Queensland preview
May 18, 2012

PROTON Motorsports will aim to finish the job it started on last year’s International Rally of Queensland, when this year’s event gets underway in Caloundra next week.

The Satria-Neo S2000s were running first and second on the Sunshine Coast in 2011 and that’s where P-G Andersson (Sweden) and Alister McRae (Great Britain) aim to finish on next week’s third round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.

The Malaysian machines enjoyed total domination of last year’s APRC, winning both the drivers’ and the manufacturers’ titles in PROTON Motorsport’s most prolific season to date. And this year has started in a similar vein with the Satria-Neo S2000s showing exceptional speed to lead both APRC rounds so far – while also dominating the early running in the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship.

The southern tip of Australia’s celebrated Sunshine Coast is the venue for the International Rally of Queensland, which kicks off with a ceremonial start on Friday (May 25) evening. All eyes will, however, be on the gravel roads inland from the coast over the weekend.

And those roads thread their way through some of Australia’s finest forest stages close to the town of Imbil in the Mary Valley. The close proximity of the stages to the service park allows the teams an almost unique opportunity to get out and watch the cars they only usually see when they’re working under the bonnet.

With the southern hemisphere tipping from autumn into winter, temperatures will be expected to hover around 20 degrees, with potential for showers over the rally period.

But the PROTON Motorsports team will deal with whatever conditions are laid before them as defending APRC champion McRae looks to improve on the fourth place he managed there last season. Two-time Junior World Rally Champion Andersson is making his debut on the e ast coast roads. A lack of knowledge of the terrain is clearly no problem for the Scandinavian, as he showed with a devastating turn of pace on his first run through the New Caledonian stages last month.

All APRC rounds are tough events and the International Rally of Queensland is no exception. The demanding nature of this rally continues right until the end with the sting in the tail provided perfectly with the 33-kilometre Big Derrier test.

The primary aim of the PROTON Motorsports team next week is to sting the opposition and deliver the kind of APRC result which laid the foundations of the Malaysian manufacturer’s epic 2011 season.

Quotes:
Alister McRae said:

“The roads on the International Rally of Queensland are a bit of a mixture between New Caledonia and New Zealand, they’re very good – and the event itself is really enjoyable as well. The Sunshine Coast is a great part of Australia and the locals really come out in force to support the event. The weather, I believe, has been quite dry over there for a while now, so there is likely to be some loose gravel around on the surface of the road, which could make it a little bit difficult for us running at the front on day one. We’ve had a tough start to the year and we need to start putting some points down and that’s going to be the aim for this rally.”

P-G Andersson said:
“We want to win this event. It’s been quite a frustrating start to my first APRC season, we have shown we have the speed, but we haven’t been able to turn that potential into points and wins. This will be quite a tough event, I think. Like the last round in New Caledonia, it’s a rally which I don’t know at all. Having said that, I don’t think it can be as tough as New Cal - I don’t think I have ever driven on a more tricky surface. Even without the rain, the grip was so hard to call there. Hopefully, in Queensland the grip will be a bit more consistent. Chris [Atkinson] is the local guy down there, so he’s going to be hard to beat but that’s what we have to do. We start this rally like we start every rally: ready to win.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We have a very straightforward plan for this event: to win. P-G and Alister have demonstrated they have the pace and the Satria has the speed, now all we need is to make ourselves a little bit of luck. This is a good, well-organised rally and one we have always enjoyed – we’re hoping to enjoy it a little bit more with a big win next week.”

Event data:
Round: 3/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Caloundra, Australia
Stages: 19
Liaison distance: 518.68km
Competitive distance: 235.86km
Total distance: 832.03km
Shakedown: Nambour Showgrounds (Friday May 25, 0800-1200)
Pre-event press conference: Nambour Showgrounds (Friday May 25, 1200)
Time difference: Australia is GMT +10

Event timetable:
Saturday May 26
SS1 Andrew Dodkins 1 (6.00km)                           0820
SS2 Derrier 1 (27.06km)                                        0838
SS3 Goanna 1 (12.57km)                                        0946
SS4 Mitchell Ck 1 (9.44km)                                     1015
Service Hella Service Park                                       1035
SS5 BP Ultimate 1 (7.80km)                                   1233
SS6 Andrew Dodkins 2 (6.00km)                           1318
SS7 Derrier 2 (27.06km)                                         1336
SS8 Goanna 2 (12.57km)                                         1444
SS9 Mitchell Ck 2 (9.44km)                                     1513
Service Hella Service Park                                        1533
SS10 Caloundra Airport 1 (1.91km)                      1915
SS11 Caloundra Airport 2 (1.91km)                      1940

Sunday May 27
SS12 Kandanga 1 (15.35km)                                  0800
SS13 Breakneck 1 (4.18km)                                   0833
SS14 Derrier Reverse (27.10km)                           0904
SS15 Andrew Dodkins Reverse (5.68km)              0942
SS16 BP Ultimate (7.80km)                                     1038
Service Hella Service Park                                        1109
SS17 Kandanga 2 (15.35km)                                  1240
SS18 Breakneck 2 (4.18km)                                  1313
SS19 Big Derrier (34.46km)                                   1344
Finish Hella Service Park                                          1500

The 2012 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Rally of Whangarei (March 30-April 1) PROTON 2nd/4th
Rally de Nouvelle Caledonie (April 27-29) PROTON 4th
International Rally of Queensland (May 25-27)
Malaysian Rally (July 13-15)
Rally Hokkaido (September 14-16)
China Rally Longyou (October 26-28)

 

Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonie review
April 29, 2012

The PROTON Motorsports team endured a tough second round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in New Caledonia this weekend, leading the event, but ultimately having to be content with a second day win.

The defending APRC champions made a good start, with PROTON’s P-G Andersson leading the event after the first loop of stages. His hopes of taking overall victory were hit, however, when the engine in his Satria-Neo S2000 took in water on the first stage on Saturday morning. The Malaysian powerplant showed great strength to get through the day, but the Swede was ruled out this morning when the engine trouble worsened.

Alister McRae’s hopes of winning a rally he led last season went out of the window when he suffered a puncture on the second stage. The Scot continued to the end of the stage in an effort to contain the time lost through the deflation, but the car suffered impact damage to the front-left suspension from the rough roads and he was forced out on SS2.

Not permitted to restart on Saturday, McRae did return for the final day of the rally today (under superally re-entry regulations), where he set top-three times on all but one test, winning three of the Pacific island stages.

PROTON’s fortunes on this rally were mirrored by the weather, starting brightly before they began to deteriorate through the weekend. And this week’s Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonie was, undoubtedly, one of the toughest APRC rounds for a long time. The tropical storms which hit the roads around Noumea on Saturday delivered vast quantities of rain, flooding the many river crossings which litter the route. The APRC entry was decimated by some of the most demanding rallying in recent memory.

The series now moves to Australia for round three, the International Rally of Queensland (May 25-27).

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“I had never been to this rally before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. The place is incredible though, with some really good roads. I had been warned about how the weather can change before we started and it really can! The rain that came on Saturday was incredible and the way the river crossings filled up so quickly was unbelievable. Given that I have never driven here before, I was really happy for PROTON and for myself that we were leading on the first day, but then we had the engine problem and we couldn’t get to the finish. It was a very, very tough rally, but we will put this behind us and move on to the next event. We have shown good speed with this car and, after leading the first two APRC rounds, I’m really hopeful of being able to turn that into a win when we get to Queensland for the next round.”

Alister McRae said:
“The positive from this rally is that we have come away with points for winning the final day. We pushed hard today and it was good to see the fastest stage times coming our way. Ultimately, though this was a disappointing event. Just when we were settling in, we caught a rock and punctured a tyre. We decided to drive on the tyre, but this damaged the suspension and we had to pull over.”

Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood (Head of PROTON Motorsports) said:
“We had hoped for a repeat of last year’s double podium results in New Caledonia, but the reality of rallying is such that all the hard work and preparation is not a guarantee of a strong finish. Having said that, we take consolation in the fact that the Satria Neo S2000 is at its most competitive form in the hands of both Alister [McRae] and P-G [Andersson], having set a blistering pace at the head of the competition.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We’re disappointed with the result in New Caledonia. P-G [Andersson] showed great speed with the car again, leading early on before we had the problem with the water on the second day. And Alister [McRae] came back strongly on to win the final day today, further demonstrating the car’s pace. Nobody wants to win more than we do and when you know what the PROTON’s capable of – having seen it perform so strongly to be the fastest car on round one – it’s even more galling when you miss the result on a rally we dominated last season.”

Event data:
Round: 2/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Noumea, New Caledonia
Stages: 19
Liaison distance: 391.61km
Competitive distance: 252.82km
Total distance: 644.43km
Conditions: sunshine and rain 23 degrees

 

Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonie preview
April 20, 2012

After a blistering start to the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in New Zealand, the PROTON Motorsports team will be looking to repeat its superior pace and performance on next week’s second round, Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonie.

PROTON drivers P-G Andersson (Sweden) and Alister McRae (Great Britain) were on great form on last month’s North Island opener, with Andersson setting comfortably the most fastest stage times and only missing out on the win after being forced to drive on a puncture for more than 20 kilometres. The team’s data shows Andersson lost one and a half minutes with that problem, yet he only missed out on the win by 30 seconds. Such speed has inspired confidence that PROTON can return to New Caledonia and repeat its victorious double podium of last season.

With this being Andersson’s first full year in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, the two-time Junior World Rally Champion has not competed on many of the rallies on the schedule – and this will be his first time tackling the Pacific island event.

Based in Noumea on Grande Terre, the largest island in New Caledonia, the rally moves through the island’s beautiful lush vegetation and farming plains. One of the big features of this event is the fickle nature of the weather, particularly at this time of the year. Running in the southern hemisphere’s autumn, temperatures are dropping to around 20 degrees, but it’s the rain which often catches out the fastest rally drivers in the Asia-Pacific region. Grande Terre is a long and narrow island divided by a range of mountains running down the centre (two peaks in which are higher than 1,600 metres) and this is enough to cause the kind of micro-climatic downpours which regularly wreak havoc with tyre choice.

While Andersson might not have competed on this rally before, his team-mate McRae led the event last season on his way to winning the 2011 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. The Scot will have plenty of advice for the Swede in the run up to round two.

And for those of you, like P-G, who are still not completely certain where the PROTON Motorsports Satria-Neo S2000s will be running next week, think around 1,500 kilometres east of Queensland and a little bit further north from the northernmost-tip of New Zealand. And that’s Noumea, home to around 100,000 of the native 250,000 New Caledonians. 

P-G and Alister will be looking to give all quarter of a million plenty to cheer as PROTON rolls into the capital city for the island’s biggest motorsport event of the year. The Malaysian manufacturer is hunting for a second win in as many years and a more fitting return than the opening round.

Quotes:
Alister McRae said:

“We led this rally last season and it’s definitely one that I enjoy. In places the roads are really wide and fast, quite similar to the roads in Argentina, but then there are some other parts of the route which are really twisty and tight. The road surface changes quite a lot as well, with the clay-based roads becoming extremely slippery when it rains. And it does seem to rain quite a lot. I’ve been checking the weather over there quite a bit recently and it seems like there’s been a fair bit of rain in the run-up to the event. Winning the championship last year means I am first on the road on all the rounds this year and that was quite a disadvantage on the first round in New Zealand, but I don’t think it will be so much in New Caledonia. The rain is likely to have washed away much of the loose gravel from the surface before we get there and it’s possible running at the front might even give us a small advantage.”

P-G Andersson said:
“I have never been to this rally before, so it’s always exciting to try some new roads. I have to be honest here and say that I wasn’t completely sure where New Caledonia was before I knew we would be starting this rally – now I know more about the place and the rally. I have watched some videos from previous events, but nothing compares with the experience of actually getting into the stages on the recce. One thing I would be fairly sure of is that the roads won’t be so fast as they were on the first round in New Zealand. That’s a shame, I feel I go better on the faster stages, but let’s see. One thing is sure, I’m starting this event as I start every event – to win.”

Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood (Head of PROTON Motorsports) said:
“On the International Rally of Whangarei, P-G Andersson put up a good fight, but despite clocking fastest time on 11 out of the 16 stages he came in second after losing more than one minute in the longest stage with a puncture. Despite that setback, P-G clawed the time back in exciting style and with great pace to reduce the deficit to less than 30 seconds at the finish. We have demonstrated the Satria S2000 is able to match the Skoda and, with better luck, the Satria S2000 should be able to spring some surprises on the Rally of New Caledonia. As we progress and commit ourselves to be better, we are confident the team combination of P-G Andersson and Alister McRae will come through with a win in New Caledonia.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“The whole team is raring to go in New Caledonia. We felt a little bit short-changed by the opening round in New Zealand; the PROTON was the fastest car across the spread of the event and had it not been for one puncture I think P-G [Andersson] would have controlled the rally from the front. What was very encouraging from the opening event was the way P-G came back from that and, without really extending himself or the car, posted fastest time after fastest time. And that’s why we’re excited about this event, we know we have the speed, the car and the team to win. This is an event which can be all about experience, especially if the rain comes in and the grip level is constantly changing and that’s where a driver like Alister [McRae] really comes into his own; he has a fantastic ability to drive around the most treacherous of conditions and I’m sure he and P-G will be doing just that when we get to New Caledonia. Car-wise, we have done more differential and suspension testing which brings an improved set-up for the second round of the APRC.”

Event data:
Round: 2/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Noumea, New Caledonia
Stages: 19
Liaison distance: 391.61km
Competitive distance: 252.82km
Total distance: 644.43km
Shakedown: GADJI (Friday April 27, 0700-1030)
Pre-event press conference: GADJI (Friday April 27, 1030)
Post-event press conference: Media centre, Hippodrome (Sunday April 29, 1630)
Time difference: New Caledonia is UTC +11

Event timetable:
Friday April 27
Start – Paita                                                               1200
SS1 Gadji 1 (16.78km)                                             1208
SS2 Gadji 2 (16.78km)                                             1356
SS3 Hippodrome 1 (3.75km)                                  1522
SS4 Hippodrome 2 (3.75km)                                  1845

Saturday April 28
SS5 Calmines-Almameto 1 (24.10km)                   0720
SS6 Mine Ada Mkm 1 (10.64km)                            0809
SS7 Penamax 1 (8.52km)                                        0844
Service – N’go                                                                        0922
SS8 Calmines-Almameto 2 (24.10km)                   1027
SS9 Mine Ada Mkm 2 (10.64km)                            1116
SS10 Penamax 2 (8.52km)                                      1151
Service – N’go                                                                        1229
SS11 Calmines-Almameto 3 (24.10km)                 1334
SS12 Mine Ada Mkm 3 (10.64km)                         1423
SS13 Penamax 3 (8.52km)                                      1458
Service N’go                                                               1536

Sunday April 29
SS14 Tabou 1 (8.61km)                                           0825
SS15 N’go Nickel Mkm 1 (10.40km)                       0851
SS16 Pirogues Almameto 1 (24.41km)                  0924
Service N’go                                                               1005
SS17 N’go Nickel Mkm 2 (10.40km)                       1105
SS18 Pirogues Almameto 2 (24.41km)                  1138
SS19 Hippodrome 3 (3.75km)                                1320
Finish – Hippodrome                                                 1335

 

Rallye Monte-Carlo review
January 22, 2012

PROTON Motorsports dominated the opening round of the 2012 FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, winning 12 of 18 Rallye Monte-Carlo stages, before P-G Andersson retired after a day-four fire aboard his Satria-Neo S2000. 

After dominating last season’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, the Malaysian manufacturer arrived at the start of its first World Rally Championship campaign with the Satria-Neo S2000 on a high. And PROTON’s double Junior World Rally Champion delivered immediately. Andersson was on sublime form in the French Alps this week, leading the SWRC standings from the start of the event.

Rallye Monte-Carlo began in Valence, in the south-east of France, on Wednesday (January 18) morning. The first loop of stages ran through the Drome region in cold but sunny conditions. Andersson and co-driver Emil Axelsson made a flying start, with their Satria-Neo S2000 only beaten on one of the day’s four stages. On day two, the PROTON team was perfect, scoring six from six fastest SWRC times.

With his lead nearing six minutes over his closest rival, Andersson decided to throttle back as the event moved into the second half. Despite this conservative approach, his advantage at the front of the field still moved past the seven-minute mark.

For the third day, the rally began in Valence with an exceptionally tricky run through the Vercors mountains, where the true nature of Rallye Monte-Carlo came to the fore. The stages were an incredible mix of dry and wet asphalt, snow, slush and ice. And, just to make things even tougher, the fog descended as the roads rose towards the Cols. But Andersson and his PROTON were more than a match for the conditions, once again winning each of Friday’s three stages.

Arriving in the principality of Monaco, all eyes were inland and on the famous Col de Turini test – a true legend among the stages of the World Rally Championship. With bright sunshine rather than snow and ice, the thousands of rally fans stood and cheered as Andersson and PROTON continued to dominate. Unfortunately, just as the SWRC leader was arriving at world rallying’s most famous summit for the second time, a fuel union fractured and leaked fuel, which caused an under-bonnet fire. The crew extinguished the flames but were unable to continue.

The sister Satria-Neo S2000 had already been sidelined after Giandomenico Basso crashed on the opening test of the event.

Having shown great speed and potential on the SWRC opener, the PROTON team is now eagerly awaiting round two, Rally Sweden, which begins in Karlstad on February 9.

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“Not far into the stage, we thought we could smell fuel in the car. I thought maybe it was a leak, but a leak inside the car rather than anything more serious. Then, a couple of kilometres before we got to [Col de] Turini, we had a warning light flash in the car telling us we had low fuel pressure. About 15 seconds after that, the fire went up and it was quite a big fire to begin with. We pulled over and jumped out of the car. The fire went down quite quickly and we got the hand-held extinguisher out and put the flames down through the air vent in the bonnet. And then we watched as our seven-minute lead disappeared. Unbelievable. We had driven sensibly: you can’t say so much about the speed, we hadn’t really pushed or anything, just no risks. The result was there and we have just missed out on it. This sport can be tough, very tough, sometimes.” 

Giandomenico Basso said:
“The sun came into the screen and I was momentarily distracted, I couldn’t see exactly. We slid and hit the wall with the left- ide of the car. It was a high-speed crash and the car was not able to continue, which was very disappointing for the whole team. After a good test, we had really been looking forward to this event and we should have been able to make a good result for PROTON.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“Ultimately, this is a disappointing event for the team but we have to take the positives from here. We have to look at the fact that we were the fastest SWRC car throughout the event – and on top of that, P-G was taking time out of Kevin Abbring in the factory Volkswagen Motorsport entry. Obviously, Abbring is a young driver, but he’s got the full might of one of the world’s biggest car manufacturers behind him and he’s in a very well established car. And P-G was beating him while driving very conservatively. I have to say, P-G drove a brilliant rally. He wasn’t on his favoured surface and he didn’t put a mark on the car. This is hard to take for the team. After last year and our dominance of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship we’ve become accustomed to winning and we should have added a historic Rally Monte-Carlo win to our collection of silverware this week. Fact is, a fracture in a fuel union leaked fuel, which caught fire and forced the guys into retirement. The car’s not badly damaged and we will bounce back next time out in Sweden. We were the fastest in Monte Carlo and we intend to finish the job in the snow next month.”

Event data:
Round: 1/8, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Based: Valence, France/Monaco, Monte Carlo
Stages: 18
Surface: asphalt
Liaison distance: 1,339.16km
Competitive distance: 433.36km
Total distance: 1,772.52km
Conditions: -6-16 degrees, mainly sunny and dry
Day one leader: P-G Andersson (SE)
Day two leader: P-G Andersson (SE)
Day three leader: P-G Andersson (SE)
Day four leader: Craig Breen (IRL)
Winner: Craig Breen (IRL)

PROTON Motorsports begins its challenge for the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship glory on next week’s Rallye Monte-Carlo.

After dominating last year’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, where PROTON won the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles, the Malaysian manufacturer arrives at one of world motorsport’s most iconic events for a legendary, five-day race through mountains to the principality of Monte Carlo.

The PROTON Motorsports team will field two Satria-Neo S2000s for Rallye Monte-Carlo (January 18-22), the first of seven SWRC rounds it will contest this season.

Two-time FIA Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson and double FIA European Rally Champion Giandomenico Basso will contest the opening SWRC round for PROTON. Both drivers have previous experience of what is recognised as one of the most challenging rallies of the season – and both are raring to get back into the Satria-Neo S2000 for their second year with the team. Both drivers have also finished in the Rallye Monte-Carlo top 10 previously.

Andersson and Basso have been testing the PROTON in the mountains close to the French-Italian border this week, with both drivers reporting significant progress with the Satria-Neo S2000.

PROTON already has a strong history in the World Rally Championship, having won the 2002 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship with Malaysian driver Karamjit Singh, but this year’s SWRC represents a new challenge – a challenge which will bring the Satria-Neo S2000 into competition with some of the strongest rally machinery around.

Rallye Monte-Carlo has a long and illustrious history. First running in 1911, next week’s event is the 80th edition and it looks set to be one of the toughest. The organisers of the rally have ramped up the competitive action, with a route starting from Valence in the Drome region and running through the Ardeche, Haute-Loire, Vercors before ending with a final evening and day in the Alpes Maritimes where the crews will contest the legendary Col du Turini stage twice – including a run at night.

The 18 stages total 433.36 competitive kilometres, which added to the liaison section make up a complete route of 1,772.52 kilometres.

This event is tricky enough, running through some of the most technical and twisty stages of the season, but when you add the Alpine element, then you get probably the most complex rally of the year. Proton will have the choice of five different tyres – more than on any other event this season – in an effort to cover off every conceivable condition from dry to wet asphalt, ice, snow, slush and rain. Sometimes, the crews can get all of those conditions in one stage.

Rallye Monte-Carlo is a true challenge and to come out the other side is a victory in itself.

The event begins with a ceremonial start in Valence at 1900 on Tuesday January 17 and finishes at 1500 on Sunday January 22 in Monaco. 

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“As soon as I drove the car at the test, immediately I could feel there was more torque from the engine: the car is definitely a step forward from last year. I am very happy with this! The team has worked really hard. The benefit from these changes with the engine will come from a faster exit from slower corners. At the same time, the car’s handing is also feeling better. But now we have to see what happens on the rally itself. Who can tell what’s going to happen on the Monte? Nobody. Everything is possible next week, but I hope to be looking for the podium result. I really like this rally, but in the past I have made some silly mistakes – I’m determined not to do that. As well as anything, we have to remember that there is no superally this year, so if we retire then we are finished and out of the game. The weather plays such a big part on this event; personally, I like it when we have the changeable conditions, you never know what you’re going to get. I think it’s easiest to make the best result when the roads are like this as well.” 

Giandomenico Basso said:
“First, I have to say how happy I am to be back with PROTON. I have good times with this team and I like to be driving the Satria-Neo S2000 again this year. We had the good test, everything felt well. I think we have some more small changes before the event, which will also help the car some more. I have good memories of this rally: it was on Rallye Monte-Carlo where I made my debut in the World Rally Championship. I won a competition in 1999 and ended up with an entry on this great event. It’s also nice to be back in the WRC, I haven’t driven in this series for a lot of years. Our test went well, no problems and looking to the event, I think the first priority is to survive the changing conditions. We saw how difficult this event could be last year – I remember leaving the service park on one morning in beautiful sunshine, then we arrived at the stage and it was pure ice! We have to get the tyres right, as well. Make the wrong choice and the rally can be destroyed. It’s really exciting to be back at the start of another season.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We’re delighted to be contesting the Super 2000 World Rally Championship and we’re also very pleased with the work we’ve done on the Satria-Neo S2000 over the closed season. The drivers are both very happy with what they’ve got for this event, so let’s see what we can do. Obviously we want to be at the front of the SWRC pack, but the priority has to be to get some points on the board on this first round of the championship. The emphasis is on getting to Monaco on Sunday afternoon. But what an event! The first stage? Thirty-six kilometres. Bang, off you go. And it gets harder from there. The weather is looking like it will be very cold, but dry – which would suit us: that’s what we got in the test. If there is any snow, we’ve got that covered as well with plenty of set-up data from previous tests. The whole team is really looking forward to getting back to the World Rally Championship and making a good start in France next week.”

Event data
Round: 1/8, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Based: Valence, France/Monaco, Monte Carlo
Stages: 18
Surface: asphalt
Liaison distance: 1,339.16km
Competitive distance: 433.36km
Total distance: 1,772.52km
Pre-event press conference: Press office, Valence (Tuesday January 17, 1400)
Post-event press conference: Press office, Monaco (Sunday January 22, 1230)
Time difference: France/Monaco is GMT+1hr

Event timetable
Wednesday January 18
Start Valence             0800
SS1 Le Moulinon-Antraigues (36.87km)    0903
SS2 Burzet-St Martial (30.48km)    1021
Service Valence         1246
SS3 Le Moulinon-Antraigues (36.87km)    1421
SS4 Burzet-St Martial (18.94km)    1539
Service Valence         1749

Thursday January 19
SS5 Labatie d’Andaure-Lalouvesc (19.00km)       0933
SS6 St Bonnet-St Julien Molhesabate-St Bonnet (25.22km)        1014
SS7 Lamastre-Gilhoc-Alboussiere (21.66km)        1137
Service Valence         1257
SS8 Labatie d’Andaure-Lalouvesc (19.00km)       1450
SS9 St Bonnet-St Julien Molhesabate-St Bonnet (25.22km)        1528
SS10 Lamastre-Gilhoc-Alboussiere (21.66km)      1654
Service Valence         1802

Friday January 20
SS11 St Jean en Royans-Font d’Urle (23.28km)   1002
SS12 Cimetiere de Vassieux-Col de Gaudissart (24.13km)         1043
Service Valence         1218
SS13 Montauban-Eygalayes (29.89km)    1511
Parc Ferme Monaco  1956 

Saturday January 21
Service Monaco         1315
SS14 Moulinet-La Bollene Vesubie (23.41km)      1508
SS15 Lantosque-Luceram (18.81km)        1554
Service Monaco         1753
SS16 Moulinet-La Bollene Vesubie (23.41km)      1934
SS17 Lantosque-Luceram (18.81km)        2017
Service Monaco         2132

Sunday January 22
SS18 Ste Agnes-Col de la Madone (5.16km)         1011
Finish Monaco           1117

Latest news - December 21st , 2011
2012 season

PROTON Motorsports
is delighted to announce it will make a full defence of its multiple FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship titles and contest the Super 2000 World Rally Championship in 2012.

Scotsman Alister McRae will lead the APRC attack, defending the drivers’ title he won at the wheel of a Satria Neo S2000 last month. McRae will be joined in the APRC by two-time Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson (Sweden).

Both McRae and Andersson will form part of the Malaysian manufacturer’s team for the SWRC, the first time PROTON has entered the Super 2000 world series, where they will be joined by Italian asphalt star and double FIA European Rally Champion Giandomenico Basso. Basso, like McRae and Andersson, is a familiar face in the PROTON team, will also spearhead the asphalt test programme.

Andersson and Basso will start the first Super 2000 WRC round Rally Monte-Carlo early next month.

The balance of PROTON’s SWRC programme will include Rally Sweden, Rally New Zealand, Rally Finland, Rally de France, Catalunya Rally and Rally GB.

PROTON Motorsports team principal Chris Mellors said: “It’s great news to have the programme sorted out and to have two major championships to look forward to, with two Satria Neo S2000s in each. The defence of our APRC success is obviously of paramount importance to us, but moving to the Super 2000 World Rally Championship is great for us to show the way the Satria Neo S2000 is developing. We have competed in the IRC for the past few years and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Eurosport and the IRC for providing a fantastic series. PROTON is taking a new direction for 2012, but we are still looking at the potential for running customer cars in the IRC.

“But, for now, we’re fully focused on the Monte for P-G and Giandomenico. This is going to be a really exciting start to what we hope will be a year as full of success as 2011 was. We’re very familiar with the main driver line-up, but as the season progresses we will be trying some different drivers in some of the SWRC rounds.” 

FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Alister McRae said: “Winning the Asia-Pacific title was one of the highlights of my career and the chance to come back and defend that success with PROTON is fantastic for me. I’ve been with the team for a while now and I’ve seen first hand the determination and professionalism which goes into the development of this team. I’m really looking forward to being part of the programme again in 2012, when hopefully we’ll enjoy even more success!”

China Rally Longyou review
November 6, 2011


Champions PROTON, McRae and Hayes were unbeatable in China

PROTON Motorsports delivered another dominant performance on this weekend’s China Rally Longyou, winning the event and taking five FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship titles in the Satria Neo S2000.

Scotsman Alister McRae was on superlative form to take the Drivers’ title along with the FIA Asia Cup. McRae’s PROTON team-mate Chris Atkinson was second in the overall Drivers’ championship, having already won the FIA Pacific Cup. PROTON won the FIA APRC Teams’ Trophy and the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Manufacturers’ title.

Having run the fastest cars in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship all season, it was fitting that the year should end with another stunning performance from the Malaysian manufacturer. Between them, McRae and Atkinson won all but two of the 13 tricky stages in the mountains south of Shanghai. At the end of day one, McRae was close to a minute up on his nearest rival after a perfect day at the wheel of his PROTON. A day later, he was celebrating his second consecutive China Rally Longyou win and his first outright FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title.

Conditions on the event were as difficult as anything the PROTON drivers have faced all season, with wet weather – and heavy rain in the days leading up to the start – making the gravel and concrete stages unbelievably slippery. But McRae mastered them. Wearing spectacles to drive in for the first time, the former British Rally Champion was on top form to win six of seven day-one stages. Despite his healthy lead, he pushed again this morning to build an even bigger cushion, before throttling back and driving to the finish.

Atkinson ended the event on a high with four consecutive fastest times on the roads through the Longyou region. Having won three of the season’s six APRC rounds, the Australian was unable to score the fourth maximum he needed in China to take the title from his team-mate.

Having won in Malaysia, New Caledonia, New Zealand and now China, the PROTON Motorsports team will now celebrate its most successful season of all.

The Satria Neo S2000 was the class of the field throughout the 2011 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. And, after six of the world’s toughest rallies, the Malaysians stand above everybody to celebrate five APRC title wins.

It’s been an incredible year. It’s been PROTON’s perfect year.

Quotes:
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Alister McRae said:

“As you would expect, Bill [Hayes, co-driver] and I are absolutely delighted with the result – and not just for ourselves, but for the whole team. This is a great result for PROTON Motorsports, for all of the guys working on the programme back in the UK and everybody in Malaysia, we’re proud to have been part of an incredible season of success. On the rally itself, everything clicked for us from the first stage. When that happens, it’s certainly not easy, but everything just flows and works as you would want it to. We pushed really hard on the first day and made some time to build a good lead. As usual, this was a tough rally. It rained quite hard just prior to the rally and on those narrow and tricky stages, it made for a difficult event. But we came through with a tremendous result: one, two in the Drivers’ championship and the Manufacturers’. Winning an FIA championship is a great achievement for me as a driver and for Bill as a co-driver. What a fantastic weekend!”

Chris Atkinson said:
“I’m disappointed not to have won the Drivers’ championship, but in winning three rallies and leading two more APRC rounds this year, we played our part in helping PROTON to win the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ titles. As we expected, this was a tricky event with the conditions and the nature of the stages.”

PROTON Holdings Group Managing Director Dato’ Sri Haji Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said:
“The results in China sum up what has been a challenging, but rewarding year for PROTON. Excelling in competition serves a bigger purpose in that it significantly supports our aspiration in becoming a competitive global car manufacturer. Motorsport is one of several key strategies being pursued to enhance the PROTON brand, especially in markets that we are actively exporting to. In addition, it enables us to promote and increase awareness of the brand, while injecting excitement and providing a platform in which technology and technical know-how can be developed and applied to future road-going models. This has been a remarkable year for PROTON.”

FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Manufacturer team principal Chris Mellors said:
“This is what we came here for. It’s been pretty much the perfect weekend for the team. I think this is what you call a dream result for the team and it’s one we’ve all worked really hard for all season. The conditions were quite tough on both days, with the rain making the roads really slippery and tricky, but Alister came out of the blocks really quickly and got on it from the start. He was quickest at the super special and just went from there. He was wearing glasses for the first time this weekend and being able to see where he was going has made a real difference; maybe we should have sent him to the opticians earlier and saved some of the damage! Seriously, though, as a team, we’re delighted with the result in China and through the year. We’ve won four from six rallies and with both drivers, been the consistent pace-setters through the year. We’ve won everything and we can’t ask for more than that.” 

Event data
Round: 6/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Longyou, China
Stages: 13
Surface: gravel/concrete
Liaison distance: 399.75km
Competitive distance: 235.64km
Total distance: 635.39km
Conditions: 12 degrees, wet then drying out
Day one leader: Alister McRae (GBR)
Winner: Alister McRae (GBR)

Rally of Scotland review
October 9, 2011

The PROTON Motorsports team once again demonstrated the development and potential of the Satria Neo S2000 on this weekend’s Rally of Scotland, but suffered misfortune on the penultimate round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge while setting times near the top of the table.


Andersson sets second quickest time through Carron Valley stage.

The Perth-based event was Swede P-G Andersson’s first outing in a PROTON on gravel and the two-time Junior World Rally Champion was immediately on the pace, setting second fastest time and running third overall after two exceptionally tricky runs through the Carron Valley stage on Friday night.

Scottish rally hero Alister McRae was also in the top 10 times on that second stage, but the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship leader’s determined run in front of fervent local support came to an end in SS5, when a stone damaged the sump on the Satria Neo S2000. When the oil light came on, McRae knew his event was run and his chances of repeating his Rally of Scotland second place of two years ago were dashed.

Andersson maintained that pace into Saturday, where he was never out of the top six times on what was one of the most competitive IRC rounds of the season. Arriving in Perth, after the morning’s action, Andersson was fourth, just 3.9 seconds away from a podium place and only just over 30 seconds off the lead. When he went to start the car to move into the control, the car had no electrical power due to a battery problem.

On stage times, Andersson remained an exceptional fourth at the end of Saturday. Unfortunately, he had incurred road penalties due to the battery problem and was classified further down the field. Unperturbed, he was back in the groove as the event moved west for the stages closer to Stirling today (Sunday), but he came unstuck when a driveshaft broke on SS11 and damaged the crank sensor. The engine stopped immediately and Andersson’s stunning run was over.

The PROTON Motorsports team now turns its attentions to the China Rally Longyou, the final round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (November 4-6), where the Malaysian manufacturer will be looking to win an unprecedented five championship titles.

Quotes:
Alister McRae said:

“It was great to be back in Scotland and competing again at home. Unfortunately, despite a really promising start, this wasn’t to be our event. The stages were really slippery, conditions were very tough, but we were inside the top 10 and the car was running well. Just in the Errochty stage we went through a corner and we felt an impact on the bottom of the car, it didn’t feel like anything too dramatic, but then the oil light came on and we switched the car off straight away. We’d caught a stone in just the wrong place and it had cracked the sump and drained the oil. This was really bad luck. It was hard to take, but that was Scotland finished for us. Now though, we look ahead to the final round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. I’m leading the championship and my team-mate Chris Atkinson is second, the fight is between the two of us and I can’t wait to get started in China.”

P-G Andersson said:
“The car felt really good throughout the rally. The handling is great and, despite some really slippery stages, we were able to push hard and make some good stage times. I was really enjoying the first time driving this car in the forests, but then we had a problem with the battery on Saturday and the sensor on Sunday. Today [Sunday] before we retired, our only other problem was in stage 12 when the screen was covered in so much mud after a big puddle, the wipers couldn’t clear it all straight away – I couldn’t see a thing! It’s good to see that, on the stage times, we were close to the front of the field, the development is paying off and the PROTON is definitely getting faster. There is more work to do with the car, but the team knows that and we’re on it. I liked this rally, the stages were nice and challenging, actually, really challenging in the conditions!” 

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“I can honestly say, in 30 years of competing in rallying, I have never known such a shocking run of bad luck. After yet another great pre-event test, everybody was really upbeat about the event, then we made a great start with P-G third on Friday night and both cars well inside the top 10, only for us to hit trouble. Alister caught a rock awkwardly and broke the sump, had that been a couple of inches either side, it would have been fine and then P-G stopped with a dead battery – never happened before and happened to us for absolutely no explicable reason. P-G carried on and would have been running fourth, a fantastic effort from him on his first outing in the car on gravel and a real demonstration of what the car’s capable of now. Then a driveshaft fails and while it’s flailing around it smashes the crank sensor and stops the engine immediately.  This has been an unbelievable rollercoaster of a season; despite the massive promise again, we have come out of Scotland on a bit of a low, but we’re ready to for the high of an Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title fight between two PROTON drivers in China next month.”

Event data
Round: 10/11, Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Based: Perth, Scotland
Stages: 15
Surface: gravel
Liaison distance: 805.86km
Competitive distance: 200.09km
Total distance: 1,005.35km
Conditions: 15 degrees, overcast
Day one leader: Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)
Winner: Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)

Rally of Scotland preview
October 3, 2011

The PROTON Motorsports team will look to build on its FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title-winning form, when it arrives at Rally of Scotland with local hero Alister McRae at the wheel of one of two factory Satria Neo S2000s.

McRae, who now lives in Western Australia, arrives back in his native land with a fine competitive edge and the lead of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. Four days ago, McRae was in the Far East contesting and leading Rally Hokkaido with PROTON Motorsports. McRae looked well set for his first APRC win of the year until a puncture halted his progress and cost him two minutes and his hopes of maximum APRC points. Typically, McRae hit back hard on the second day in Obihiro, slashing the gap between himself and the winner to just 8.8 seconds at the finish.

Having gone from Perth (WA, Australia) to Perth (Perthshire, Scotland) via Tokyo, McRae is looking forward to some of the toughest competition of the season. Focused on the APRC this year, this week will be the former British Rally Champion’s first IRC outing of 2011. He’s also looking forward to seeing the Saltires flying, the Haggis cooking and the stunning beauty of Scotland in the autumn.

The Rally of Scotland is the scene of PROTON’s finest hour in the IRC. In his debut season with the team, McRae placed the Satria Neo S2000 second overall on the 2009 event. Since then, the British-based team has worked through a considerable research and development programme with the car, dramatically reducing the gap to the IRC pace-setting machinery.

Joining McRae in the PROTON Motorsports team is IRC regular P-G Andersson. The Swede – a double Junior World Rally Champion – has been pleased with the ongoing development of the Satria Neo S2000 this season and he is looking forward to getting the car into the Scottish forests.

The second half of the IRC season has a heavy asphalt bias and, having been born and brought up on Scandinavian roads shorn of grip either by the winter snows or their loose-surface nature, Andersson’s pace is bound to be a feature of Scotland’s biggest motorsport occasion this week.

And, for the team itself, the Rally of Scotland represents the final leg of a gruelling timetable in which PROTON Motorsports has contested four rallies in five weeks on two continents. Having just arrived back from Japan, the team will relish the day-long road-trip back to base in Bakewell – with not a check-in desk or plate of aeroplane food in sight. 

Prior to Rally of Scotland, PROTON Motorsports will spend Wednesday testing in forests close to the town of Callander to fine-tune the set-up ahead of the Stirling Castle start on Friday (October 7) evening.

Quotes:
Alister McRae said:

“It’s always nice to come home to compete again. And it’s good to come home with plenty of competitive seat time in the Satria Neo. Rally Hokkaido was a bit of a double-edged sword, really. We were really disappointed not to win the event, we had the speed with the car until we got the puncture, but then we finished second in APRC, which was enough for us to lead the championship with one round to go.
"But now, the focus is on Scotland. We had a good finish here a couple of years ago, when we finished second in the PROTON. The competition is going to be really tough, there’s a good, quality entry for the rally.
"The new stage on the Friday night is going to be a big challenge to everybody, especially with it running in the dark. In October, it’s just possible there could be a wee bit of rain or mist around, just to really spice things up a bit. After that, it’s onto the familiar stages on Saturday and Sunday – and these really are some of the best roads in the world. I know I’m a Scotsman, so I’m possibly a wee bit biased, but Scotland’s a fantastic country and the Rally of Scotland is a great rally to come and watch.”

P-G Andersson said:
“It’s going to be nice to get the car onto gravel, this is the surface where I have more experience of competition. We could see from the times which Giandomenico [Basso] set in Rallye Sanremo last month that the car is getting better and better. And everybody in the PROTON Motorsports team is full of confidence after a very good result in Japan last weekend. I’m sure this will be a good event this week, everybody has talked so much about these stages – I’m really looking forward to getting going in them.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“Scotland is an event the team all enjoy. Having travelled a fair bit this season, it’s good for the guys to come and compete at home – and the competition will be fierce again this week. We come to this rally match-fit after clinching the drivers’ Asia-Pacific title in Japan last week. Obviously, it’s been a while since P-G was in the car on gravel, but he’ll have a good opportunity to get some valuable set-up work done at the test on Wednesday. We’re really pleased with the way the development of the car is going now and we’ve shown that we’ve cut the gap dramatically [to our rivals] on recent asphalt rounds of the IRC.” 

Event data
Round: 10/11, Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Based: Perth, Scotland
Stages: 15
Surface: gravel
Liaison distance: 805.86km
Competitive distance: 200.09km
Total distance: 1,005.35km
Pre-event press conference: Press office, Perth (Friday October 7, 1500)
Post-event press conference: Press office, Perth (Sunday October 9, 1900)

Event timetable
Friday October 7
Start Stirling Caste    1900
SS1 Carron Valley 1 (8.36km)         1945
SS2 Carron Valley 2 (8.36km)         2010
Service Perth             2216

Saturday October 8
SS3 Craigvinean 1 (16.54km)         0920
SS4 Drummond Hill 1 (13.16km)   1045
SS5 Errochty 1 (17.68km)   1210
Service Perth 1454
SS6 Craigvinean 2 (16.54km)         1615
SS7 Drummond Hill 2 (13.16km)   1740
SS8 Errochty 2 (17.68km)   1852
Service Perth 2045 

Sunday October 9
SS9 Carron Valley 3 (8.61km)         0908
SS10 Loch Chon 1 (9.91km)            1052
SS11 High Corrie 1 (27.08km)        1110
Remote service Callander                1228
SS12 Loch Chon 2 (9.91km            1337
SS13 High Corrie 2 (27.08km)       1355
Service Perth 1620
SS14 Scone Palace 1 (2.76km)        1650
SS15 Scone Palace 2 (2.76km)        1712
Finish Scone Palace  1724

Rally Hokkaido review
October 3, 2011

The PROTON Motorsports team stands on the verge of its most successful season ever, following another exceptional performance on last weekend’s Rally Hokkaido which has guaranteed the Malaysian manufacturer the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title. 

The question still to be answered on the final round, the China Rally Longyou (November 4-6), is which of the two PROTON drivers will take the title; will it be current APRC series leader Alister McRae or his team-mate Chris Atkinson?

Both McRae and Atkinson set a blistering pace through the Rally Hokkaido stages last weekend, with the Scot collecting bonus points for setting the most fastest stage times on the penultimate APRC round.

It took until late in the first day before any of PROTON’s APRC rivals could find a way to beat the Satria Neo S2000 to a fastest stage time.  Atkinson led the Obihiro-based event from the start, but was forced to give best to McRae after the Scotsman's stunning time through the fourth stage – almost a second per kilometre faster than his nearest non-PROTON rival.

McRae suffered a puncture two stages later and was forced to stop and change the flat front-left. Having dropped more than two minutes, McRae fought back magnificently through the second day, to end the event just 8.8 seconds short of victory.

Australian Atkinson’s hopes of victory in Hokkaido were spoiled when his Satria Neo S2000 lost oil on stage nine. For the first time this season, the man who has won three of the five rounds run so far does not lead the title race.

Beyond the drivers’ championship, PROTON continues to lead the manufacturers’ title race. PROTON will collect the Team Trophy and, most likely, the Asia Cup in Longyou next month. Atkinson has already won the Pacific Cup.

With one round remaining, PROTON Motorsports looks well set to secure all five of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship titles it embarked on at the start of the season.

Quotes:
Alister McRae said:

“The puncture was pretty disappointing, but the upside was the speed we showed on this rally. I’m pretty confident we would have had the performance to take maximum APRC points here without that [puncture]. The car was great during the event; we had no problems. You can really see where the development is coming and the potential of the PROTON is being unleashed. What I was really pleased with is that the roads here in Japan probably suited the turbocharged Group N cars more than they did our car, but we showed that we had the pace to beat them. Now we go to China for what’s going to be a great fight between myself and Chris. Before that, though, it’s back home to Scotland for me, for the Rally of Scotland. It’s nice to be arriving as the leader of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship – and really nice to arrive with some solid seat time just a few days earlier.”

Chris Atkinson said:
“We were having a great battle with Alister when the car started to lose oil. There was nothing we could do. It’s really disappointing to have lost the lead in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, but at the same time it’s set-up a real thriller in China between Alister and I.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“To know we have the drivers’ championship in the bag is tremendously satisfying, especially to do it with one round remaining. The car is coming on leaps and bounds. We struggled here in Hokkaido 12 months ago, but this year, for me, there’s no doubt that Alister would have won without the puncture. Both the guys, Alister and Chris, were absolutely flying here in Japan. Alister won plenty of stages and even set some new stage records, which demonstrates how well the car is working. And now we go to China with all to play for. And the drivers will be free to fight on that event.”

Event data
Round: 5/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Obihiro, Japan
Stages: 19
Surface: gravel
Liaison distance: 777.72km
Competitive distance: 222.89km
Total distance: 1,000.61km
Day one leader: Katsuhiko Taguchi (J)
Winner: Taguchi (J)

Rallye Sanremo review
September 25, 2011
PROTON Motorsports team principal Chris Mellors says Rallye Sanremo, which ended in Italy last night, represents the Satria Neo S2000’s most competitive outing in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge to date.
PROTON driver Giandomenico Basso was running at the front of the field from the start of one of the season’s most popular – and competitive – events on Friday afternoon. The double FIA European Rally Champion’s time on the opener was just 7.6 seconds off the fastest time on the twisty roads high in the Ligurian Alps. On stage two he lowered that gap to just 2.8 seconds – and beat current IRC series leader Jan Kopecky’s factory Skoda on the Bajardo test.
Basso remained in the thick of the fight until the fearsome 44-kilometre Ronde stage late in Friday night. Basso didn’t hear a pace note call from his co-driver Mitia Dotta and they went off the road at a junction, damaging the right side of the PROTON. They lost four minutes getting through the stage, dropping out of the top 10 for the first time on the final asphalt rally of the IRC season.
With the car fixed, Basso was immediately back in the grove the next morning and began reeling those ahead of him in. By the end of the event, he was back in the top 10 after further demonstrating the pace of the PROTON on one of the twistiest and toughest rallies of the season.
Basso’s team-mate Chris Atkinson retired early in the event with an electrical issue on his Satria Neo S2000.
Buoyed by the speed shown in Sanremo, the team heads east for the next round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, Rally Hokkaido, which starts on Friday (September 30).


Quotes:
Giandomenico Basso said:
“Apart from the problem we had on the dark stage, this rally was very good for the team. We have made good progress with the car again. On Friday afternoon we were right there and able to make some very good stage times. We got back to the top 10 after the problem, which was good, but we could have finished higher up.”

Chris Atkinson said:
“It was a huge disappointment to stop early in the event. We’d had a good test, the recce had gone well and we were really looking forward to the rally. Unfortunately, this is the sport times. Fortunately for me and the team, we don’t have time to dwell on this: it’s straight on to Japan for Rally Hokkaido for all of us.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“This was undoubtedly one of our strongest events from a pace perspective. As Chris [Atkinson] has said, losing his car so early was very disappointing and very frustrating. I’m very confident he would have gone really well on this event – especially given the pace Giandomenico was showing. It’s that speed which is the real positive for us here in Italy. We’ve been analysing the split times and the data from the car and we can see the work we’ve done on the engine is really paying dividends. On uphill sections, where we would possibly have dropped time on previous rallies, we’re right there with the rest of them. Compared with 12 months ago, we have come a very, very long way with this car and that’s testament to the effort from the team in Malaysia and the guys back at base in the UK. Everybody works 24/7 for us and when you have moments like the second stage – when he was a couple of seconds off fastest – it’s some payback for that effort. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting very close now.”

Event data

Round: 9/11, Intercontinental Rally Challenge

Based: Sanremo, Italy

Stages: 13

Surface: asphalt

Liaison distance: 298.33km

Competitive distance: 225.77km

Total distance: 524.10km

Conditions: 20 degrees, sunny
Day one leader: Freddy Loix
Winner: Thierry Neuville
Rallye Sanremo preview
September 16, 2011

Rallye Sanremop review
September 20, 2011


PROTON Motosports driver Chris Atkinson will return to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge for next week’s Rallye Sanremo as preparation for what could be the biggest moment of the Australian’s rally career one week later. 

Atkinson has dominated this year’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, winning three from four rounds of the series, and is well placed to seal the FIA title for the Malaysian manufacturer on the Rally Hokkaido, which starts in Japan on September 30. Next week’s Rallye Sanremo will be the perfect opportunity for the Queenslander to hone his competitive instinct.

PROTON Motorsports’ regular driver Giandomenico Basso will partner Atkinson in Sanremo.
Rallye Sanremo will be Atkinson’s second IRC outing of the year and, after a season of travelling around the Asia-Pacific region, racing through the Ligurian Alps will feel like home for the Monaco-based driver. Atkinson and Basso will make a formidable team for the next IRC round, with double FIA European Rally Champion Basso a former winner of his home round of the series.

As has often been the case in teaming up an IRC programme with its FIA APRC commitments, the PROTON Motorsports team will be doing plenty of travelling in the next month. Hours after crossing the finish line in Sanremo, the team will be packing up and flying east for Hokkaido. And on the completion of the Japanese event complete, PROTON will return to Europe for Rally of Scotland, meaning three rallies on two continents in three weeks.

The team will test in Italy early next week, finalising the set up for the two Satria Neo S2000s ahead of the final asphalt round of the 2011 IRC.


Quotes:
Chris Atkinson said:

“It’s great to be back in the IRC again. I’ve done the recce for this event before, but never competed in Sanremo. It’s fair to say that this is one of the events I’ve always wanted to do: it’s one of the classics and a really tough event. From what I remember some of the stages can be quite technical and then there’s the night stage, which is going to be a big challenge. I haven’t competed for a while now, so I’m really keen to get back in the car, especially on asphalt as I haven’t driven on that surface since January. Competing in Sanremo will definitely help me for the following week in Japan. There’s nothing like time in the car to keep you sharp. The competition in IRC will be really tough as usual. Those boys have been out racing pretty much every other week and that really gets you on the ball as a driver. I’m pretty fortunate having a team-mate like Giandomenico [Basso], he’s got plenty of knowledge on setting the car up on these roads and for tyre choice if the weather closes in.” 

Giandomenico Basso said:
“I love this rally. It’s a rally that I’ve done plenty of times before and I’ve got some good memories from Sanremo. I’ve won it before and I nearly won there last year as well. I love the long stages; I’ve always liked long stages as you really have to think a lot about the car and the tyres over the whole stage – it’s not like the short stages where you just go. There’s a really special atmosphere to Sanremo; it’s a great place to be in a rally car. This is a rally where experience definitely helps and you need to concentrate very hard because of all the corners. It’s a really technical event that is not easy to master; you have to be really on top of the car. The speeds are not that fast and that makes it more demanding, physically and mentally. Then of course you have the long stage at night, which is a really tough test for everyone. It’s a great rally and this week we want to see our guests from Malaysia encouraged by what they see.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:

“Rallye Sanremo really is one of the great events of the season. The fans out there are incredible, so passionate and so dedicated to their sport, it’s a pleasure to go and compete in an atmosphere like that. We’ve had a season of highs and lows so far and the issues we had on the previous IRC round in Hungary were really quite strange, certainly nothing we’d experienced before. We put that behind us and move on. It is a very busy time coming for the team, with three events in quick succession – those rallies bring plenty of opportunity – and even more air miles!”
 
Event data
Round: 9/11, Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Based: Sanremo, Italy
Stages: 13
Surface: asphalt
Liaison distance: 298.33km
Competitive distance: 225.77km
Total distance: 524.10km
Pre-event press conference: Press office, Sanremo (Thursday September 22, 1730)
Post-event press conference: Press office, Sanremo (Saturday September 24, 1900)
Time difference: Italy is GMT+1hr


Event timetable
Friday September 23
Start Sanremo                                   1320
SS1 Coldirodi (13.06km)                 1354
SS2 Bajardo (7.36km)                      1433
SS3 Bignone (10.59km)                   1451
Service Sanremo                               1531
SS4 Coldirodi (13.06km)                 1650
SS5 Apricale (17.43km)                   1712
SS6 Bignone (10.59km)                   1739
Service Sanremo                               2129
SS7 Ronde (44.00km)                      2233
Service Sanremo                               2350                          
Saturday September 24
SS8 Colle Langan (20.57km)           1016
SS9 Passo Teglia (18.80km)            1053
SS10 Colle d’Oggia (15.47km)        1202
Service Sanremo                               1302
SS11 Colle Langan (20.57km)         1516
SS12 Passo Teglia (18.80km)          1600
SS13 Colle d’Oggia (15.47km)       1709
Finish Sanremo                                 1823




Canon Mecsek Rallye review
September 12, 2011

The PROTON Motorsports team is now looking forward to demonstrating the potential of the Satria Neo S2000 on Rallye Sanremo later this month, after a couple of freak engine faults sidelined the cars on the Canon Mecsek Rallye which finished in Hungary yesterday (Sunday). 
Both drivers P-G Andersson and Giandomenico Basso had enjoyed a positive pre-event test with the Malaysian manufacturer, but when the competition on the latest round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge got under way, they hit trouble on the first of two days.

There was frustration within the PROTON Motorsports team after the drivers weren’t able to capitalise on the pace which has shot the Satria to the top of this year’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. Running out of Pecs, Hungary’s fifth largest city and into the Mecsek mountains close to the Croatian border, Andersson and Basso were looking forward to the event. New to the IRC for this year, the Canon Mecsek Rallye would have provided a level playing field for the crews, none of whom had competed on the fast asphalt lanes previously.
Unfortunately Andersson suffered a cambelt-related issue in SS6, having already damaged a wheel on the rally’s second stage. Basso departed near the end of the opener with a problem linked to the oil filter.

Attentions now turn to Rallye Sanremo (September 22-24), a 23-hour event which runs through the mountains behind the beautiful host town of Sanremo. Always one of the most popular rallies of the season, the dash around the Italian Riviera is particularly popular with Basso, who won his home round of the IRC in 2008.


Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“I hit a kerb on the second stage, which damaged the left-rear wheel on the car. I stopped to try and change the wheel, but it wouldn’t come off. We kept driving and eventually we could get it off. That cost us a lot of time and any chance of a result. The impact had damaged the transmission as well, so the team had to get the rear differential changed in service as well. Unfortunately, we retired later with a small problem with the engine. This was a very frustrating event.”
 

Giandomenico Basso said:
“We were very much looking forward to this rally after our test had gone well. Everything was moving in a good direction with the car after the last round in Czech Republic. We were in a very fast section near the end of the first stage when the engine seized, it’s a real shame – the stage had gone well and we I think things were looking good on this event.”      

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“I have to say, as a team we’re devastated by what’s happened here in Hungary. We came here on good form, having done more work on the car and we’ve been ruled out by two relatively simple engine problems. It’s massively frustrating and these problems have spoiled the potential we had prior to the event. The team will now go back, regroup and come back stronger in Sanremo later this month. Onwards and upwards; we will fight on.”

Event data
Round: 8/11, Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Based: Pecs, Hungary
Stages: 14
Surface: asphalt
Liaison distance: 537.43km
Competitive distance: 251.86km
Total distance: 820.69km
Conditions: 24 degrees, sunny
Day one leader: Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)
Winner: Jan Kopecky (CZ)

 

PROTON SCORES PERFECT ONE-TWO IN NEW ZEALAND
International Rally of Whangarei review

July 17, 2011

PROTON Motorsports’ domination of this year’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship goes on. Satria Neo S2000 drivers Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae finished first and second in the APRC standings on the International Rally of Whangarei, which ended in New Zealand today.

Atkinson (Australia) has now won three from four APRC rounds this season and now holds a 21-point advantage over McRae (Great Britain) in what is looking increasingly like an all-PROTON fight for this year’s drivers’ title. The nearest non-PROTON driver is now 46 points adrift in third.

PROTON’s position at the top of the manufacturers’ standings is looking equally strong, following the Malaysian firm’s perfect one-two score on what was one of the toughest, longest and most arduous rounds of the series.

The local competition on New Zealand’s north island is tougher than anywhere else in the championship, with highly rated Kiwi Hayden Paddon providing the sternest challenge to the PROTONs.

Atkinson drove magnificently through wet conditions on yesterday’s opening leg (Saturday) to arrive at evening service with a 6.2-seconds advantage from Paddon, with McRae in the thick of the fight in third.

Atkinson’s only issue yesterday was running a harder tyre than he thought necessary, while McRae suffered a broken intercom mid-way through the second run at the event’s longest stage (SS6, Bull, 40.63km) and felt he should have taken a narrower Michelin in the morning.

Today, however, was all about Atkinson. Fastest on the first three stages of the day, the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship leader demonstrated the stunning pace he’d used to such devastating effect to win in Malaysia and New Caledonia earlier this season.

In total, Atkinson won five from eight Sunday stages to seal what he described as his most satisfying win of the season.

Even the New Zealand weather, which had been wet for the week prior to the event, improved as the Queenslander closed on victory over local ace Paddon, who had won this event three times before. 

McRae’s hopes of clinching his first win of the season went south when he spun on the opener this morning and then discovered a minor water leak on the final loop of stages. After such a dominant performance the Scotsman was so far ahead of his nearest APRC competition, he could afford to ease off through the event’s final two stages and still ensure PROTON of its historic one-two on the FIA-qualifier. 

Quotes:
Chris Atkinson said:

“This has been a fantastic rally. These roads really are the best in the world. They give you so much confidence all the time. Even in the tricky conditions, in the heavy rain we had, you know you can still push on down these stages. They’re so good to drive and to fight on. Yesterday, we didn’t have the right tyre; I think we could have run the soft compound, I struggled a little getting the heat into the tyre. But today, it’s been perfect. We were fastest this morning and, once I knew I could contain Hayden [Paddon], the focus was on doing just that all day. Like I said, these rallies reward an attacking style and I felt I could have gone quicker if I needed to today, which is also good for my confidence as a driver. It’s been a fantastic team performance. This event really shows how good the car is and how hard the team has worked in the last 12 months. A year ago, Paddon was beating us by 30 seconds or a minute in places, but this time around we’ve really shown what the PROTON is capable of. Winning in a place like this, where the competition is always given such a hard time by the really good local drivers, means a huge amount to me – it’s also pretty good for the championship!”

Alister McRae said:
“We came here looking to take some points off Chris [Atkinson], but that hasn’t really worked out. I have to hand it to him on this event, he has driven very, very well. We had a few niggling things, like the wrong tyre, the intercom and the spin this morning, but even with a clean run I think we would have struggled to get past him. Even though we had mixed fortunes on this event, I’ve really enjoyed the rally – you always do on these roads – and we’ve shown again the good steps we’ve taken with the car. The big thing here is the one-two in APRC for PROTON, that’s a great result for us and it’s only going to help for the manufacturers’ title. As for the drivers’ title, it looks like that could be between Chris and myself. I’m certainly not about to give up, we’re still in there fighting and we go to Japan and the next round looking to get ahead of him and set up a thriller of a final round in China.”

Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood (Head of PROTON Motorsports) said:
“This has been a fantastic result for PROTON and a further testimony to the Satria Neo S2000 coming of age in international rallying. Tremendous effort has gone into the development of the car and it’s incredibly rewarding to see the hard work beginning to pay huge dividends.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“This is what all the hard work is about, weekend’s like these: the perfect result for PROTON Motorsports. Everybody has worked so hard for this and it’s all come good. Beyond a small water leak on Alister’s car right at the end, there’s been absolutely nothing [wong] with the cars all weekend; we haven’t put a spanner on them. The conditions were quite tricky. We had some torrential rain, which made the roads really slippery, but Chris [Atkinson] and Alister [McRae] drove brilliantly. Neither of them put a mark on the car and they finished one-two in APRC, nobody can ask for more than that, like I said: it’s perfect. I think this result really shows the way the development of the car is coming along as well; look where we were last year, struggling to match some of the local drivers and this time we have come along and beaten them. A good weekend.”

Event data:
Round: 4/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Whangarei, New Zealand
Stages: 16
Liaison distance: 398.76km
Competitive distance: 301.90km
Total distance: 700.66km
Conditions: 15 degrees, rain
Day one leader: Chris Atkinson (PROTON)
Winner: Chris Atkinson (PROTON)

The 2011 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Malaysian Rally (April 1-3)
International Rally of Queensland (May 13-15)
Rally de Nouvelle Caledonie (June 17-19)
Rally of Whangarei (July 16-17)
Rally Hokkaido (September 30-October 2)
China Rally Longyou (November 4-6)


Rally of Whangarei preview
July 8, 2011 

After dominating the first half of this year’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, PROTON Motorsports heads to New Zealand for next week’s fourth round of the series in the lead of the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships.

The International Rally of Whangarei will plunge PROTON drivers Chris Atkison and Alister McRae into the middle of a Kiwi winter, but they don’t mind in the slightest. The North Island roads which make up the fourth round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship are, quite simply, some of the best on the planet. The heavily cambered stages allow the drivers to slingshot their cars through the corners, carrying more speed than ever before.

And, this being the sports-mad nation of New Zealand, the town of Whangarei really… goes to town when the rally arrives.

PROTON Motorsports scored a second place on this event last year and is desperate to place one of the two factory Satria Neo S2000s on the top step of the podium at the end of 16 gravel stages. While the road surface is smooth and generally kinder to the cars than in some other countries, two runs through the 40-kilometre Bull stage – and more than 300 competitive kilometres across the two days – ensure this event will be anything-but easy.

New Zealand is a fearsome place to come for any sporting contest – just ask any of the 19 teams heading to the Land of the Long White Cloud to face the legendary All Blacks in September’s Rugby World Cup. And in a town which will host some of that Rugby World Cup action, the battle for the International Rally of Whangarei will be just as fierce next week.

With two wins from three starts this season, Atkinson is ready for the battle ahead. The Australian could have arrived with a 100 per cent record, after dominating the early stages of APRC round two in his Queensland, Australia backyard. Atkinson’s team-mate McRae is also well-acquainted with winning, having taken success on the closing round of the 2010 series in China. Both PROTON Motorsports drivers are in with very good chance of taking this year’s coveted APRC title and no quarter will be given when they get started in New Zealand.

The Satria Neo S2000 has demonstrated devastating pace throughout the first half of this year’s APRC, courtesy of upgrades to the car from the Malaysian manufacturer, but the weather remains a factor which could upset a formbook favouring PROTON. Typically, temperatures range between five and 15 degrees in the Northland area of New Zealand at this time of the year, but rain can arrive in a moment, varying the conditions greatly from crew to crew.

Quotes:
Chris Atkinson said:

“We arrive at this event on a high, having won last time out in New Caledonia and leading the championship. But, once this next event gets going, nothing else matters. The roads in New Zealand definitely favour the Super 2000 car. Cars like our PROTON are really at home in the fast and flowing corners, like the ones on the North Island roads. One of the areas where the PROTON works really well is in the weight transfer over the top of the road; because the cars is quite light, you can move it about more than with a heavier Group N car. Plus, if you do get on the wrong side of the camber, it’s a little bit easier to get back than a Group N car. I love the roads in New Zealand, they’re fantastic; they really reward attacking driving. The other good thing is that there’s nothing between you and a good time: the roads are so smooth, it’s pretty unusual to have a rough section on this event. The competition from the local drivers is always really tough on this event and this year will be no exception.” 

Alister McRae said:
“These are classic stages. Names like Waipu Gorge and Batley are well known around the world for their tough nature, but also for the rewards they offer a driver who can get them right. I can’t wait to get started. The car’s feeling better and better this year and we’ve definitely got some more speed from it. That speed has come from the suspension and engine work the team has been doing since the start of the year. The new suspension has made the car more driveable, while giving better traction and feeling for the road. The engine has also improved driveability, with more power from lower down. Getting these things sorted has allowed us to spend more time fine-tuning things like the differential set-up and other things like that, which also make the car quicker. I would say the car has the pace to win everywhere this year and we’re now getting the kind of consistency which can make that happen. We’re going to be quicker in New Zealand this year than we were last year, because the car’s had another 12 months’ of development. Chris [Atkinson] and I will certainly be starting the event looking at nothing less than a win – as we do with every event.”

Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood (Head of PROTON Motorsports) said:
“After winning in New Caledonia, we are naturally upbeat about our chances in New Zealand, but we remain mindful that the competition and conditions will be very tough.  There are 76 teams confirmed for this rally, and our fellow APRC competitors as well as some of the local wildcards have the ability to win as well. However, we are quietly confident with the progress in our development of the Satria Neo S2000 as well as the excellent driving form shown by Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae.  We finished second last year and we hope for better results this year.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We have made a number of changes to the car from the start of the year and all of them are taking us in the right direction. You only have to look at the times the car is doing in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) against the cream of the Super 2000 factory cars to see how close we’re getting. We’re down to fine-tuning with the Satria now; it’s very exciting to see where the car is now and where it’s going to be in the very near future. We have a huge amount of potential. What can I say about the drivers? We have a world-class pair in Alister [McRae] and Chris [Atkinson]. They’re both exceptionally quick and capable of winning the International Rally of Whangarei. We come here having finished first and third on two of the three APRC rounds so far this year, it’s be nice to go one better and take our first one-two in Whangarei. Like every year on this rally there’s going to be some tough local competition out there this year, but we’re going out there to give the – rugby – ball a kick.”

Event data:
Round: 4/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Whangarei, New Zealand
Stages: 16
Liaison distance: 398.76km
Competitive distance: 301.90km
Total distance: 700.66km
Shakedown: Pohe Island (Friday July 15, 1000-1200)
Pre-event press conference: Media centre, Whangarei (Friday July 15, 1430)
Post-event press conference: Media Centre, Whangarei (Sunday July 17, 1600)
Time difference: New Zealand is GMT+12 hrs

Event timetable:
Friday July 15

Ceremonial start – Cameron Street, Whangarei    1700

Saturday July 16
SS1 Brooks 1 (13.60km)                                          0853
SS2 Bull 1 (40.63km)                                               0926
SS3 Cassidy 1 (23.75km)                                         1024
SS4 Whangarei Super Special (1.50km)                1127
Service – Whangarei                                                 1137
SS5 Brooks 2 (13.60km)                                          0853
SS6 Bull 2 (40.63km)                                               0926
SS7 Cassidy 2 (23.75km)                                         1024
SS8 Whangarei Super Special 2 (1.50km)             1127 

Sunday July 17
SS9 Waipu Caves 1 (21.47km)                               0748
SS10 Waipu Gorge 1 (10.99km)                             0831
SS11 Batley 1 (20.06km)                                        0854
SS12 Wairere 1 (18.95km)                                     0932 
Service – Whangarei                                                 1040
SS13 Waipu Caves 2 (21.47km)                             1203
SS14 Waipu Gorge 2 (10.99km)                             1246
SS15 Batley 2 (20.06km)                                        1309
SS16 Wairere 2 (18.95km)                                     1347
Finish – Whangarei                                                   1455 

The 2011 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Malaysian Rally (April 1-3)
International Rally of Queensland (May 13-15)
Rally de Nouvelle Caledonie (June 17-19)
International Rally of Whangarei (July 16-17)
Rally Hokkaido (September 30-October 2)
China Rally Longyou (November 4-6)

 

Rallye Nouvelle Caledonie review

June 20, 2011

DOMINANT PROTON ONE-TWO IN FIA ASIA-PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIP

PROTON Motorsports dominated Rallye Nouvelle Caledonie, which finished in Noumea yesterday (Sunday). The Satria Neo S2000 proved unbeatable for the second FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship round this year. Chris Atkinson (Australia) and Alister McRae (Britain) finished first and third in the Pacific island event and are now one-two in the APRC standings – with PROTON leading the manufacturers’ title race.


Atkinson and PROTON made a big splash winning in the Pacific last weekend

After making the perfect start to the APRC season with a winning double podium on the Malaysian Rally, PROTON was aiming for a repeat of that performance on the 19-stage event. And Atkinson and McRae duly delivered. 

Atkinson’s second victory of the year – and PROTON’s third win from the last four APRC rounds (including McRae’s APRC win on the China Longyou Rally, the final round of the 2010 series) highlighted the performance and consistency of the Satrias.

New Caledonia was always going to be one of the biggest challenges for the PROTON Motorsports team this season, with Atkinson only having competed there once before and McRae never having travelled to the island rally. The notoriously fickle weather delivered plenty of rain just before the start of the event, leaving the switchback dirt roads extremely muddy and slippery for the region’s finest and fastest rally drivers. And PROTON, Atkinson and McRae proved to be finer and faster than the rest.

Atkinson built a comfortable lead at the front of the field and rarely looked troubled as he progressed to his second success in this year’s series. His win on the beautiful Pacific island is enough to return him to the lead of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship drivers’ table. The Queenslander is 10 points ahead of McRae, who completes a PROTON’s perfect one-two in the mid-season table.

With three rounds down and three to run, PROTON Motorsports is enjoying huge success in this year’s series – the most important and highest profile in the Asia-Pacific region. Beyond the drivers’ race, PROTON is also leading the FIA Asia-Pacific Championship for Manufacturers and the APRC Teams’ Trophy.

The next event for the PROTON Motorsports team is the Geko Ypres Rally round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, which starts in Ypres, Belgium on Friday (June 24). The team’s next FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship round will be the International Rally of Whangarei (July 15-17) in New Zealand.

Quotes:

Chris Atkinson said:
“Finding a good rhythm and a good pace on these roads was really important on this rally – and we were able to do that pretty quickly. The roads were really wet to start with, but they did dry out. In some ways that made it harder because when you went under the trees, it was damp again and you had to be really careful in these sections: there was no grip at all. This rally was definitely one of the toughest I’ve ever done, harder than most of the rounds of the World Rally Championships I’ve competed on; as the conditions were drying, it felt like no two corners had the same sort of grip level. Scoring our second win from three rounds shows how quick the car is and how much performance we have there. It also makes it more frustrating that we had the problem on the second round in Queensland, we were leading when we went out of that event – we could have been here sitting on three wins! Apart from a broken driveshaft on the first day, which was a strange problem – one we've never had before, everything went to plan on this event. This was a great result – and another one to make PROTON proud.” 

Alister McRae said:
“Not competing here before made this a tricky rally for me. I enjoy the challenge of these new events, but the rain that had fallen before the start of the rally made these roads incredibly difficult. The surface of the road is quite clay-like, so, as you would expect, as soon as it got wet, there wasn’t too much grip around. We had some punctures during the event which cost us a time, but to come away from the event with third place was good news, it keeps me right in the race for the title. From here, we’re going to New Zealand which is an event everybody absolutely loves and I’m hoping I can put one over on my team-mate Chris [Atkinson] on that event.”

PROTON Holdings Berhad Group Managing Director Dato’ Seri Haji Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said:
“We are elated with this victory. Two victories in three rounds of the APRC certainly proves the competitiveness of the Satria Neo S2000. We’ve endured our fair share of misfortunes and mechanical issues but the car has nevertheless proven time and time again that it is able to take on the more powerful turbocharged cars and more importantly win rallies.” 

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“This is a great result for the team. It means we’re leading the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships which is fantastic news. It’s fair to say we were ready for a shot in the arm like this one. The cars ran really well and the Satria has, once again, shown the pace it can run at. This wasn’t an easy rally for the team, Chris had been here before, but some time ago, but Alister hadn’t seen these roads before and they were pretty tricky, with plenty of places to catch the guys out. Both Chris and Alister have done a great job for the team and that’s reflected in the way we lead the championships. Taking first and third from two of the first three rounds is a very solid start to the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship – and it's nice to be leading three FIA championships!” 

Event data:
Round: 3/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Noumea, New Caledonia
Stages: 19
Liaison distance: 387.41km
Competitive distance: 223.73km
Total distance: 611.14km
Conditions: 20 degrees, dry
Day one leader: Chris Atkinson PROTON
Winner: Chris Atkinson PROTON

The 2011 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
International Rally of Queensland (May 13-15)
Rally de Nouvelle Caledonie (June 17-19)
Rally of Whangarei (July 16-17)
Rally Hokkaido (September 30-October 2)
China Rally Longyou (November 4-6)

 

Barum Czech Rally Zlin review
August 28, 2011


In front of a 300,000-strong crowd, PROTON Motorsports demonstrated the pace and ability of the Satria Neo S2000 by scoring both drivers’ and manufacturers’ Intercontinental Rally Challenge points on the Barum Czech Rally Zlin, which finished this afternoon. 
PROTON is contesting this year’s IRC alongside its hugely successful FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship programme, where the Satria Neo S2000 has won three of the four rounds so far this year.

The competition on this weekend’s seventh IRC round of the season was tougher than at any time this year, with 29 of the world’s fastest Super 2000 cars making the start of this exceptionally popular rally. Based in Zlin, the rally is known for attracting big crowds, but with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees for much of the event, the attendance hit a record-breaking 300,000 on the asphalt roads in the south-east of the Czech Republic.
And PROTON Motorsport drivers, double Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson and two-time FIA European Rally Champion Giandomenico Basso, were right in the thick of the action. Unfortunately for Basso, a puncture ruined the Italian driver’s hopes of taking points from the event, but Andersson (Sweden) was on exceptional form throughout to score in the sunshine.
On what is recognised as one of the most difficult asphalt rallies in the world, with it’s bumpy nature and ever-changing grip levels as the roads dive in and out of the trees, both Andersson and Basso gave a solid and speedy account of themselves. And both were delighted with the pace of the on-going development of the Satria Neo S2000.

Conditions weren’t quite as difficult as they have been in previous years, but heavy overnight rain on Saturday meant the shaded areas of Sunday morning’s stages needed to be treated with extreme caution.

Andersson ended the event in ninth place, less than 20 seconds behind local hero and former Ford World Rally Championship driver Roman Kresta, while Basso climbed to 13th having slipped to 18th after his puncture. 
Buoyed by its burgeoning IRC pace, the PROTON Motorsports team now heads through Slovakia and into Hungary for the next round of the series, the Canon Mecsek Rally (September 9-11).


Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“I had a good feeling the whole weekend and really enjoyed this rally. I liked the stages and we’ve also improved the car in the engine and the chassis. It’s getting better. We had a little spin just before service today and broke the propshaft, but the team changed that and it didn’t cost too much time – it was close to the end of the stage. I’m looking forward to the next event in Hungary now. I have done quite a lot of driving on asphalt and I’m enjoying it – I feel that I know the car now and I can take it to the limit more and more. It’s good.”

Giandomenico Basso said:
“I'm happy. This is a very hard race, but I'm happy. We made improvements to the car and, for us, it was important to arrive at the finish with a good result for the team, which we've achieved. We'll see for the next race in Hungary, when I hope to do another good race, maximum attack. The car has improved again, but this race is very hard for any car. We showed the reliability and that was good to show. We had a little problem today but it was just a little problem. The car was good." 


Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We’re very pleased with the way the weekend has gone. Okay, there have been a few punctures and the cars have been off the road a couple of times, but at the end of the event we have shown a significant step forwards in the development of the PROTON. From where we were 12 months ago, we have halved the gap to the cars at the front of the field and that represents real progress. I’m pleased with both of the drivers, but I think given that P-G has never been to this event before, to come here and set the times he’s done, shows what we’re capable of. We’re under no illusion here, we know we have more work to do with the car, but we’re absolutely on the right track and we know the areas of the car where we’re going to focus our attention.” 

Event data
Round: 7/11, Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Based: Zlin, Czech Republic
Stages: 15
Surface: asphalt
Liaison distance: 371.25km
Competitive distance: 248.48km
Total distance: 619.73km
Conditions: 26 degrees, sunny
Day one leader: Jan Kopecky (CZ)
Winner: Jan Kopecky (CZ)

Geko Ypres Rally preview
June 18, 2011

The worldwide nature of PROTON Motosports’ 2011 rally programme is demonstrated in the next nine days as the Malaysian manufacturer competes on either side of the globe in two of the most competitive rally championships in the world.

Just days after completing the second round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, the Rallye De Nouvelle Caledonie (New Caledonia), the PROTON team heads north of the equator for the Geko Ypres Rally, round five of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

P-G Andersson (Sweden) and Giandomenico Basso (Italy) will be reunited with their Satria Neo S2000s for the all-asphalt Belgian classic. Two-time European Rally Champion, Basso is a former winner of the Geko Ypres Rally; Andersson will rely heavily on his team-mate’s knowledge as the double Junior World Rally Champion has never competed on the rally previously.

The Geko Ypres Rally is based around the town of Ypres in north-west Belgium. And,  next week, that town is taken over by hundreds of thousands of rally fans from across the continent. The event is a true classic and an enormous challenge. Unlike any other asphalt rounds in the championship, the smooth Belgian roads slice their way through the farmland with only square corner after square corner likely to slow the speeding Satrias.

In a hectic, 30-hour schedule, Basso and Andersson will tackle a 649-kilometre route, including 18 stages that comprise 287 competitive kilometres.  What makes this event even tougher is the notoriously fickle weather and the fact that five of the stages will be run in fading light or complete darkness.

When the PROTONs arrive at the Grote Markt in the centre of Ypres at the end of Saturday, they will have completed one of rallying’s toughest tests.

And don’t forget, just six days earlier, Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae will have done the same thing on the earth’s other side.

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“I have never done this rally before, but I have seen the stages and the number of people out there spectating is just incredible. I think we’re in for a rally with a lot of atmosphere! Unfortunately, I think it can be quite tough for drivers to go there without so much experience and try to win the rally; some of the roads are quite specialised. We showed last time in Ukraine that the team is making good progress with the car, the car is definitely getting quicker, and I’m sure we will continue to do the same in Belgium.”

 Giandomenico Basso said:
“I’m looking forward to this event, I have won here before and it’s always a big challenge with a lot of really fast local drivers. The last rally we did [the PRIME Yalta Rally] with the car showed that we have made progress with the Satria. This is the good thing, the car is better and better, we are really improving. I want to come out and be fast in Ypres.” 

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“Ypres is one of the biggest rallies in Europe and you always get a great welcome when you get over there. As a team, we’re looking to deliver on the promise we showed in Yalta; analysing the times, you can see that we’re right on the cusp with the car. We believe we have the right package to deliver a result in Ypres, we’ve certainly got the most talented drivers in P-G and Giandomenico. P-G’s right when he says it will be tough to go to that event for the first time, but he’s going to be able to get some good advice from Giandomenico, who has won in the past. But, before that next IRC round, we’re competing in New Caledonia in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship this weekend. Obviously, we’re eager to see what the boys can do on that event. It would be nice to go to Belgium on the back of a second APRC win of the year.”

Event data
Round: 5/12, Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Based: Ypres, Belgium
Stages: 18
Surface: asphalt
Liaison distance: 361.98km
Competitive distance: 287.89km
Total distance: 649.87km
Pre-event press conference: Media Centre, Novotel (Friday June 24, 1430)
Post-event press conference: Media Centre, Novotel (Saturday June 25, 2330)
Time difference: Belgium is GMT+2hrs 

Event timetable
Friday June 24

SS1 Dikkebus-Westouter 1 (14.30km)      1649
SS2 Mesen-Sauvegarde 1 (14.75km)         1744
SS3 Langemark 1 (18.84km)                      1823
Service Ypres                                                1929
SS4 Dikkebus-Westouter 2 (14.30km)      2018
SS5 Mesen-Sauvegarde 2 (14.75km)         2113
SS6 Langemark 2 (18.84km)                      2152
Service Ypres                                                2228 

Saturday June 25
SS7 Proven-Vieteren 1 (14.76km)             1118
SS8 Watou 1 (12.33km)                              1140
SS9 Heuvelland 1 (24.74km)                      1216
Service Ypres                                                1300
SS10 Hollebeke 1 (28.82km)                      1403
SS11 Lille-Eurometropole (8.47km             1506
SS12 Show Wasquehai  (1.88km)              1538
SS13 Kemmelberg 1 (10.23km)                 1641
Service Ypres                                                1709
SS14 Proven-Vieteren 2 (14.76km)           1827
SS15 Watou 2 (12.33km)                            1849
SS16 Heuvelland 2 (24.74km)                    1925
Service Ypres                                                2009
SS17 Hollebeke 2 (28.82km)                      2112
SS18 Kemmelberg 2 (10.23)                       2156
Finish Ypres                                                   2238 

Rally de Nouvelle Caledonie preview
June 10, 2011

PROTON Motorsports drivers Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae start next week’s Rally de Nouvelle Caledonie with their sights set on a second victory from three Asia-Pacific Rally Championship rounds in the Satria Neo S2000.


PROTON is looking for a repeat of the Malaysian Rally win in New Caledonia

The third round of the APRC starts from the capital of New Caledonian, Noumea on Friday (June 17) afternoon. Scotsman McRae spearheads PROTON’s challenge, arriving on the south-west Pacific island second in the title race, with Atkinson (Australia) two places behind him.

PROTON dominated the opening APRC round of the series, at home in Malaysia, and looked like repeating that performance on the second event in Queensland, Australia, before dropping back from the front of the field. PROTON’s Satria Neo S2000 does, however, remain the class of this year’s APRC field with more fastest times than any other manufacturer.

The fast and flowing stages on next week’s rally will suit the PROTON’s ever-improving power and driveability, empowering McRae and Atkinson to carry the fight to their rivals on what has to be one of the most picturesque rallies in the world.

Sitting 750 miles east of Australia and 900 miles north-west of New Zealand, the action takes place on the Grande Terre, the largest island in the archipelago. The mountainous nature of this 6,300-square metre island mean rain is always a possibility. While the event takes place in the southern hemisphere’s winter, temperatures are still expected around 20 degrees.

The stages offer a stunning mix of inland roads through the forests and rich vegetation and the coastline roads, where one mistake could provide man and machine with a closer-than-expected glimpse of the South Pacific.

McRae and Atkinson will test their PROTONs in New Caledonia on Tuesday, when they will focus on finding the perfect set-up for the 19-stage event.

Quotes:
Chris Atkinson said:

“We’ve led the first two – and won the first round – of the championship, so we know we’ve got the pace to be at the front of the field. I was really impressed with what the team had done with the car, just between Malaysia and Queensland, the engine was great, but then we had a few issues. The team have worked really hard to get those things sorted and you could see from the pace on the last intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) round how close the car is to the other factory S2000s; we’re very close with this car now. I’ve done the rally in New Caledonia once before and I remember fast and narrow roads which will suit our car. I’m really looking forward to getting back in the car and showing what PROTON can do again.”

Alister McRae said:
“There’s always something really interesting about going to a new place and a new rally and that’s the case for me in New Caledonia. I’ve heard plenty about it, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the roads. I’ve heard it’s a mixture of Queensland and New Zealand, which should be good for us and the PROTON: both of those events suit the Super 2000 car. I’ve watched some in-car from previous years and it looks as though the surface is quite clay-like, which will get very slippery if it gets wet. We’re looking for a good result from this event; we’re looking for a win. The [Asia-Pacific Rally] Championship is still wide open and we really want a result to put the disappointment of Queensland behind us – and to get us to the top of the table. I think everybody can see the potential of the Satria Neo S2000 now, the pace is very impressive – and we’re out to demonstrate that pace in a new part of the world next week.” 

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We know we’ve got the speed to win this rally. We have addressed the issues we had in Australia and we’re happy, very happy with the way the car’s running ahead of New Caledonia. The team has competed on this event before and we have a very good idea of where we’re going with the car set-up. We’re quietly confident of a good result – a repeat of the first and third we took in Malaysia would be nice.”

Event data:
Round: 3/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Noumea, New Caledonia
Stages: 19
Liaison distance: 387.41km
Competitive distance: 223.73km
Total distance: 611.14km
Shakedown: Noumea (Friday June 17, 0730-1030)
Pre-event press conference: Ramada Hotel, Noumea (Friday June 17, 1030)
Post-event press conference: Finish podium, Noumea (Sunday June 19, 1600)
Time difference: Malaysia is GMT+11hrs

Event timetable:
Friday June 17
SS1 Nouville 1 (2.67km)                                                1223
SS2 Plaine 1 (3.78km)                                                1236
SS3 Nouville 2 (2.67km)                                                1514
SS4 Plaine 2 (3.78km)                                                1527

Saturday June 18
SS5 Calmines Mkm 1 (24.10km)                                    0743
SS6 Champs de Bataille Almameto 1 (10.35km)            0836
SS7 Penamax Pierre Clavel 1 (8.55km)                        0909
Service – Prony                                                            0929
SS8 Calmines Mkm 2 (24.10km)                                    1052
SS9 Champs de Bataille Almameto 2 (10.35km)            1145
SS10 Penamax Pierre Clavel 2 (8.55km)                        1218
Service – Prony                                                            1238
SS11 Calmines Mkm 3 (24.10km)                                    1401
SS12 Champs de Bataille Almameto 3 (10.35km)            1454
SS13 Penamax Pierre Clavel 3 (8.55km)                        1527
Service – Prony                                                            1547

Sunday June 19
SS14 Tabou Pierre Clavel 1 (8.57km)                     0748
SS15 Touongo Almameto 1 (10.33km)                    0811
SS16 Pirogues Mkm 1 (14.26km)                             0844
Service – Prony                                                          0942
SS17 Touongo Almameto 2 (10.33km)                     1047
SS18 Pirogues Mkm 2 (14.26km)                              1120
SS19 Plaine 3 (3.78km)                                             1343
Finish – Anse Kuendu                                                  1358 

The 2011 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Malaysian Rally (April 1-3)
International Rally of Queensland (May 13-15)
Rally de Nouvelle Caledonie (June 17-19)
Rally of Whangarei (July 16-17)
Rally Hokkaido (September 30-October 2)
China Rally Longyou (November 4-6)

PRIME Yalta Rally review
June 5, 2011

PROTON Motorsports emerged from the PRIME Yalta Rally with Ukrainian sporting heroes Oleksandr Saliuk Sr and Evgen Chervonenko on the podium in the latest round of the Ukrainian National Rally Championship, which finished yesterday.


Saliuk Sr was a hugely popular and successful addition to the PROTON team

Saliuk and Chervonenko had won the USSR Rally Championship title together 20 years earlier and, when Saliuk’s son broke his arm and was unable to take the start, Oleksandr wasted no time in asking his former co-driver to join him in a third factory PROTON Satria Neo S2000. This resurgence of one of the most fondly remember rallying partnerships caught the imagination of a nation and brought close to 250,000 fans to the Crimean coastline to cheer them on.

Saliuk didn’t put a wheel out of place as he raced through the sun-drenched and hugely entertaining Ai-Petri Mountain stages. Such was his performance, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych visited the PROTON Motorsports service area to meet representatives from the Malaysian manufacturer and members of the team. Yanukovych spent half an hour with the team, talking through various aspects of the sport and the rally.

The other two factory Satria Neo S2000s were driven by PROTON’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge regulars, P-G Andersson (Sweden) and Giandomenico Basso (Italy). Both had enjoyed a fruitful three-day test prior to the start of this fourth IRC round of the season – and the results of that test were clear to see. Both cars were running inside the top 10, with Basso up to fifth, and posting competitive times.

Unfortunately a puncture cost Andersson time on the fourth stage, with a similar issue hampering Basso one stage later, following a power steering problem. With those problem solved, the cars were soon back up to speed. Unfortunately, both cars hit engine trouble and retired on Friday.

While the IRC result might not have been the one the team had started the event aiming for, the PRIME Yalta Rally was an undoubted commercial success for the PROTON team. Beyond the sporting side of the event, the Malaysian manufacturer arrived on the shores of the Black Sea chasing recognition from the local fans. And PROTON Motorsports certainly did that. The Satria Neo S2000s were scarcely off the television screens or out of the sports sections of the newspapers. A further nod to the relationship developed between PROTON and the Ukraine came from the merchandise sales being completely unable to keep up with demand.

By Saturday afternoon, the yellow shirts of PROTON appeared to line this section of the Crimean coastline.

Quotes:
Oleksandr Saliuk Sr said:

“I have really enjoyed competing on this rally and working in the car with Evgen again. The car was very enjoyable to drive and it was great to see so many people out watching the rally at the side of the road – and to see so many people visiting our country and having such a good time. The atmosphere around the rally was really enjoyable and to come away with third place in our national championship was very satisfying.”

Giandomenico Basso said:
“This was a very difficult rally. All the time it was bumpy, bumpy and slippery. Some of the roads were going in and out of the forests and when we were under the trees, we didn’t know what was the grip going to be like: sometimes it would be okay, sometimes, there would be no grip at all. It was really hard to read the road. I would say this was quite an extreme asphalt rally, a real challenge. I was happy with where we were running: fifth place was nice and, at that point, we weren’t having any problems. In the third and fourth stages, the car felt very good, we could go quicker, everything was working. All the work the team had done on the car, you could feel it in those stages, but then we lost the power steering in the fifth stage, then got the puncture. It was not so nice, we could have made the good result here. But I am happy for the way the car was feeling before the trouble, the team is in the right way for the next event.”

P-G Andersson said:
“The handling and suspension of the car is so much better, we are definitely getting somewhere with the car. It’s always tough to retire from a rally, but we felt good at the start of this one. Like I thought, the stages were quite similar to what I had experienced in Bulgaria last year, with lots of mixed levels of grip. It wasn’t an easy rally at all. There were earth banks at the side of the road and, after it had rained a lot during the night, you could find some sections of mud where the rain had run out of the bank – these were really slippery. It was a tough rally, but there were lots of people out watching and plenty of them wearing the yellow of PROTON which was nice to see. We focus our attentions on Ypres next.”

Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood (Head of PROTON Motorsports) said:
“We came here with the single objective of establishing the PROTON branding which was previously unheard of in the Ukraine. PROTON put up such a strong challenge against the more established European brands that we were pleasantly surprised to find every Ukrainian rally fan talking about the brand. There was further evidence of this in the enormous attention we received at the service park where almost all of our PROTON Motorsports merchandise and team t-shirts were snapped up by our new-found fans! Overall, the team had put up such an incredible performance with [Giandomenico] Basso running as high as fifth overall before mechanical problems put a serious dent on our aspirations. On the back of these unfortunate circumstances, we achieved our objectives of creating a very high awareness for PROTON and making it a desirable brand in the Ukraine.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“Firstly, I have to say what a huge honour it was to receive the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in our service area during this event. He was a knowledgeable, interested and very welcome guest.
“This was a rally of highs and lows for us. Obviously, it was great to get Oleksandr and Evgen through and to see them finishing third in the Ukrainian Championship round. It was incredible to have these two legends of rallying in this part of the world in a PROTON for what has been the biggest rally their country has staged. Not only did they acquit themselves extremely well, but they also fired the imagination of the national media. I’ve never seen such complete coverage of a rally from both broadcast and print media. We have been made extremely welcome by the people of Ukraine and we’ve enjoyed the event. Obviously, we didn’t come away with the result we were hoping for from P-G [Andersson] and Giandomenico [Basso], but the silver lining here is the times both cars set. Clearly we’re getting there and we are very close to the competition now. Giandomenico was running fifth and might have had a look at fourth had we avoided the issues which stopped him. We’ve got some tweaks to make for the asphalt, so we’ll be back stronger and faster for Ypres.”

Event data
Round: 4/12, Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Based: Yalta, Ukraine
Stages: 14
Surface: asphalt
Liaison distance: 459.74km

Competitive distance: 261.87km

Total distance: 721.61km
Conditions: 24 degrees and sunny (rain overnight)
Winner: Juho Hanninen

PRIME Yalta Rally preview
30 May 2011

PROTON Motorsports will arrive at the start of this week’s PRIME Yalta Rally on the back of a positive three-day test in Ukraine.

For the first time this season, the Malaysian firm will run three Satria Neo S2000s, with local hero Oleksandr Saliuk Sr joining regular Intercontinental Rally Challenge crews P-G Andersson and Giandomenico Basso for the Ukraine’s biggest moment in rally history.

The beautiful town of Yalta will host the event, but the mainstay of the action will take crews inland from the Black Sea coastline and into some of the Crimea region’s most dramatic scenery on the roads are the Ai-Petri Mountain.

This is the first time the PRIME Yalta Rally has formed part of the IRC and the nation has got behind the event, with the event organisers are expecting huge numbers of spectators to turn out to watch the fastest Super 2000 cars competing in their backyard.

All three drivers tested the Satria Neo S2000 on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (today) in preparation for what’s going to be one of the most testing rounds of this year’s IRC. The unyielding mountain roads allied to the often changeable weather will make for one of the most fascinating rounds of the series to date. The action gets underway on Thursday (June 2) with two stages, before two long days of sport on Friday and Saturday.

The PROTON crews focused on getting their cars set-up for the event ahead, while also testing the latest developments made to the Satria Neo S2000, which includes further improved suspension and engine settings.

Driving a factory car at IRC level for the first time, Saliuk Sr will have plenty of experience to draw on within the team: Andersson has two Junior World Rally Championship titles to his name and Basso is a two-time European Rally Champion and the man who won the inaugural IRC crown in 2006.

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:

“I am very encouraged by the way the car has been feeling in the test. The handling of the car feels better again since Canaries and the engine is also improved. I can’t say where we might finish the event, but I am pretty sure we will be closer than we have ever been to the other competitors. About the rally, well, I don’t know too much. I think it’s going to be a similar sort of event, similar sort of stages to the ones I drove on the Bulgaria Rally last year. I think it can be quite bumpy in some sections, with the grip level changing a lot. The other thing which seems to be changing quite a lot is the weather – and when it rains I think the roads are going to be quite slippery.” 

Giandomenico Basso said:
“It’s good to be back in the car again after quite a long time away. The car feels nice and having a test in the place where we are going to be competing has helped me again. The team is good to work with and we have made a good set-up for the event. I don’t know too much about what to expect from this rally, it’s new for us all – but it’s nice to go somewhere new and to try a new challenge.”

Oleksandr Saliuk Sr said:
“It means a great deal to me and to my co-driver and I to compete together 20 years after we won the title in the USSR. This is a very important rally in the Ukraine and one which will attract the IRC’s fastest drivers to our beautiful part of the world. I am very excited about competing with these drivers and teams in front of the home crowd.” 

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We had a very good test for the event, everything went really well with all of the drivers feeling comfortable in the car and getting plenty of kilometres in. There’s a real sense of anticipation ahead of this event, it’s something new, nobody really knows what’s coming - and it's a great place to go rallying; the atmosphere is fantastic, the organsation has been tremendous and everything is working very well. From what we’ve heard, the roads are quite similar to Corsica in places, with varying levels of grip. There’s another strong entry for this latest IRC round, which means the competition is going to be pretty fierce, but, with more time in the car and the further improvements we’ve made to the Satria since the boys were in it last time in the Canaries, we’re feeling confident of a strong performance.”

Event data
Round: 4/12, Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Based: Yalta, Ukraine
Stages: 14
Surface: asphalt
Liaison distance: 459.74km
Competitive distance: 261.87km
Total distance: 721.61km
Pre-event press conference: Media Centre, Yalta (Thursday June 2, 1500)
Post-event press conference: Media Centre, Yalta (Saturday June 4, 1800)
Time difference: Ukraine is GMT+2hrs

Event timetable
Thursday June 2
SS1 Yalta (2.12km)               1314
SS2 Livadija (5.49km)          1347
Service Yalta                          1412

Friday June 3
SS3 Ai-Petri 1 (17.26km)     0844
SS4 Plato 1 (22.55km)         0912
SS5 Orlinoje 1 (22.55km)    1055
Service Yalta                          1150
SS6 Ai-Petri 2 (17.26km)     1303
SS7 Plato 2 (22.55km)         1331
SS8 Orlinoje 2 (22.55km)    1541
Service Yalta                          1609
 

Saturday June 4
SS9 Opolznevoje 1 (18.95km)         0807
SS10 Sokolinoje 1 (22.35km)          0945
SS11 Uchan-Su 1 (17.07km)            1013
Service Yalta                                      1049
SS12 Opolznevoje 2 (18.95km)      1225
SS13 Sokolinoje 2 (22.35km)         1403
SS14 Uchan-Su 2 (17.07km)            1431
Service Yalta                                      1507
Finish Yalta                                        1522


PROTON helps make history on the Yalta Rally
25 May 2011

One of the Ukraine’s most famous rallying partnerships will be reunited on next week’s Prime Yalta Rally when Alexander Saliuk Sr and Evgen Chervonenko get back into a rally car for the biggest moment in their nation’s rallying history.

And they’ll be doing it in a PROTON Satria Neo S2000, as team-mates to two of the sport’s biggest stars, P-G Andersson (Sweden) and Giandomenico Basso (Italy).

Saliuk Sr and Chervonenko won the USSR Rally Championship 20 years ago and were recognised as being among the region’s fastest drivers in their era. Since that historic rally title, the pair have stopped competing regularly; Saliuk’s son Alexander Saliuk Jr is rising through the ranks and his father has stepped aside to focus on his son’s development as a driver. Saliuk Jr cannot compete on next week’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge round after he suffered a broken arm.

Chervonenko has been a driving force behind the Prime Yalta Rally’s recognition by Eurosport Events, the firm which runs the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. And next week, Chervonenko will co-drive in a factory car on the legend he helped create.

Speaking at a specially convened press conference in Yalta earlier this week, Saliuk Sr said: “The original plan was for my son to drive the PROTON, but since his injury I have stepped in to take his place behind the wheel. It means a great deal to me and to Evgen to compete together 20 years after we won the title in the USSR. This is a very important rally in the Ukraine and one which will attract the IRC’s fastest drivers to our beautiful part of the world. Evgen and I are very excited about competing with these drivers and teams in front of the home crowd.”

The Prime Yalta Rally runs on the asphalt roads in the foothills of the Ai-Petri Mountain, inland from the beautiful Crimean peninsula. The event begins with an opening ceremony at Yalta’s waterfront on Thursday June 2. The rally, round four of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, gets underway with six stages the next day, before finishing after a further six stages on Saturday June 4.

PROTON Motorsports will be running three factory-specification Satria Neo S2000s for Andersson, Basso and Saliuk Sr.

 

International Rally of Queensland review
May 15, 2011

For the second year running, the PROTON Motorsports team set the pace at the International Rally of Queensland – but an electrical issue ruled the team out of a one-two finish which looked perfectly possible early in the rally. Scotsman Alister McRae slipped back from the lead today (Sunday) and finished the Sunshine Coast event in fourth place.

Both McRae and his team-mate Chris Atkinson had been full of praise for the improvements made to the PROTON Satria Neo S2000, and both drivers enjoyed a trouble-free test for this second round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. After the first two spectator stages on Friday night, the team’s hopes of going one better than the APRC opener, last month’s Malaysian Rally – where they finished first and third, were on course as Atkinson led from McRae.

Courtesy of his Malaysian Rally win, Atkinson led the APRC coming into his home event, and the local superstar continued his domination from the front of the field on the first stage on Saturday. Not far after the start of SS4, however, the leading PROTON suffered an alternator problem and stopped.

Running close to Atkinson when he suffered the electrical issue, McRae took on the PROTON charge with an inspired run through Saturday to lead the rally going into the second and final day.

Unfortunately for McRae, his hopes of repeating his – and PROTON’s – win on the final round of last year’s APRC were dashed when his car suffered an alternator problem. McRae ended the event in fourth place, claiming points not only for his overall placing, but also for leading at the end of day one.

PROTON Motorsports will return its focus to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge next, where P-G Andersson and Giandomenico Basso will drive the factory Satria Neo S2000s on the Prime Yalta Rally (June 2-4).

Quotes:
Chris Atkinson said:

“We’re all disappointed with what happened in Queensland. We showed such tremendous pace early on, but it wasn’t to be. This can be a tough sport sometimes. The positives from here are the way the cars were running: we were one-two without too much trouble. Just looking at the times we were doing in the superspecials compared with last year, we’ve pulled five seconds out of some of the guys, in just a couple of kilometres. That’s a real step for PROTON. The suspension and engine are really coming together, which makes it all the more frustrating that we couldn’t make this one stick. Obviously, it’s a tough one for me, this being my home event. We had some good support out there on the stages. This was a big rally for me and the team. It’s just a shame we couldn’t put it together to back up the win in Malaysia.” 

Alister McRae said:
“At the end of the opening day, things were looking good for Bill [Hayes, co-drive] and I. We’d had an electrical issue of our own on the opening day, which had cost us 50 seconds, but we’d battled back and we were leading. I was happy with that. We hadn’t had to risk everything to get the time back, so I was pretty confident for the next day. It felt like we could control the event and be in a good position to take the win. When we had the alternator problem on the next day, fourth was the result. Championship-wise, the results haven’t shaken out too badly for us, so we’re still in the fight for this year’s title – and, again, the car is showing real potential. We had the speed to win this rally, but it just got away from us.” 

Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood
(Head of PROTON Motorsports) said:

“This was a hard-fought rally. While we were hoping for a better result, fourth place amid an unfortunate last day will, nevertheless, go a long way to extending our position in the manufacturers’ championship. Alister [McRae] did an exceptional job in not dropping more time while nursing the car home. He takes first-placed points from day one and a fourth overall today – and we also saw a class win for Gunaseelan Rajoo (MYS) in his PROTON.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“The alternators on both cars were overcharging and causing an electrical issue in the cars. We homologated new parts to cure this problem, but obviously we’re going to go back to the UK to find a solution. I can’t tell you how much frustration there is in the team. Like the boys have said, this one was there for the taking. Neither of them was being silly or pushing too hard and we were taking time out of the rest of the drivers in the rally. The engine modifications have worked well here, there’s plenty of torque and power lower down in the rev range; watching the cars coming out of hairpins, it just pulls and pulls. We had absolutely no problems in testing or in any of the pre-event work we did, but it seems when we put the numbers on the doors, there’s something to deal with. Looking at the times we were setting this weekend, compared with those stages 12 months ago, the progression we have made with the car is terrific. We’ll be working on the other issues immediately.” 

Event data
Round: 2/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Caloundra, Sunshine Coast
Stages: 19
Surface: gravel
Liaison distance: 515.93km
Competitive distance: 230.79km
Total distance: 733.65km
Conditions: 23 degrees and sunny
Day one leader: Alister McRae
Winner: Mark Higgins (GB)

Malaysian Rally 2011 review
Proton takes dominant win at home

April 3, 2011

PROTON Motorsport celebrated one of its greatest rally success ever this weekend as the Malaysian manufacturer dominated its home round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, with Chris Atkinson winning the Malaysian Rally.

Based in Johor Bahru, the Malaysian fans were treated to a stunning display of power and control from Atkinson and his team-mate Alister McRae as the pair powered their PROTON Satria Neo S2000s ahead of everybody else on what is regarded as one of the toughest rallies in the world.

As usual, the heat played its part on this event, with the in-car temperatures rocketing. Fortunately, Atkinson and McRae were more than ready for their personal battle with the elements – and the PROTON was equally up for the enduring challenge posed by the twisty and technical stages.

Atkinson made a blistering start to the event. Content to play second fiddle on the spectator-pleasing dash around the Angsana suuperspecial, as soon as the event hit the real roads of the Kota Tinggi forest complex the Australian was in his element.

Fastest on the first gravel stage, the PROTONs were demonstrating commanding early pace by posting the first and second quickest time; Atkinson’s team-mate McRae being the only driver able to get close to the Queenslander’s scratch time.

The next stage meant another fastest time for Atkinson, his lead now more than half a minute at the front of the field. Unfortunately, SS3 proved more of a challenge for McRae and his co-driver Bill Hayes. The front of their Satria Neo S2000 became blocked by long grass, restricting the air-flow into the engine. Starved of cool air going through the radiator, the engine began to overheat, limiting the power available to the Scot.

McRae remained in touch throughout day one and moved back onto a provisional podium position on the sixth test.

Atkinson’s searing pace through Saturday was matched only by the temperature outside the Satria. Despite the heat and humidity – which led to in-car temperatures running in excess of 60 degrees – the PROTONs didn’t miss a beat. The leader won five of the six gravel stages on Saturday to dominate proceedings and build a lead of close to two minutes. With McRae’s Satria Neo S2000 just two places further back in third, the local fans were loud and proud of the Malaysian machinery which was dominating the front of their most important rally of the year.

After their thrilling and dominating drives through Saturday, Atkinson and McRae set about protecting their podium places on Sunday. The heroic pace and performance of day one, gave way to consistency and durability on day two. Atkinson suffered a right-rear puncture on the opening test, which cost him half a minute, but that was the only issue on day two. The PROTONs ran faultlessly to allow the Australian and the Scotsman to end the event in first and third places.

This was what the thousands of Malaysian motorsport fans had turned out to see: their car winning their rally. Two Satrias on the podium made for a sweet weekend.

PROTON won the final round of last year’s Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and maintained that domination into 2011, with a hugely impressive display in Johor Bahru this weekend.

Quotes:
Chris Atkinson said:

“This result has been coming for a while. Last year, we saw just how quick the car was in the APRC and now we’ve delivered the score which everybody in PROTON deserves. It was a shame Alister had his trouble on the first day, it would have been a great battle with him. In the end, we had to drive sensibly. We’d got a good lead from the first day and we could only lose it today [Sunday]. We weren’t willing to risk anything, so we just settled down and counted the stages off, especially after we dropped some time with a puncture on the first stage this morning. As a driver, you always want to be on the limit and racing, but this was a result for PROTON and the people of Malaysia. They have made us so welcome over the past week, to be able to take two places on the podium is a fantastic result for Chris [Mellors], the MEM team and all of PROTON. It’s the best possible way to start the season. As soon as we got into the car to drive it with the new suspension and engine, we knew it was going to be special. It was. Very special.”

Alister McRae said:
“This was a great result for the team, but it was obviously a little bit disappointing that I had the overheating problem yesterday. We were running pretty high up on the road and we got some grass caught in the radiator. When we saw the temperature going up, we slowed down until the temperature came down a little bit, then we would go again. The car has taken a really good step forward and there is more speed to come, but the engine and suspension already felt great on this rally. There’s no doubt this event was the toughest for the Super 2000 car. The tight corners don’t suit S2000 cars as much as the others, so to take a win here is fantastic. The next rallies will suit us much more, which makes the future very exciting for this car and this team. Obviously, a one-two was the dream, but first and third is a great result and a massive achievement for PROTON.”

Dato’ Sri Haji Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir (PROTON Holdings Berhad Group Managing Director) said:
“In a rally that was incredibly difficult, celebrating a victory and having two cars on the podium is absolutely rewarding for PROTON and the entire team, as much as it is a big boost to the brand and consumer appeal in our products. The results are also testament to all the testing, development, hard work and heart that have gone into building the PROTON Satria Neo S2000’s competitiveness. The Satria Neo S2000’s pace and performance in Malaysia forms a strong foundation for further development in preparation for the next round of the APRC which moves to Australia next month and five further very competitive rounds in 2011.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“When we saw the look on the drivers’ faces after the first test of the car this year, we knew this was possible. The team has worked so hard through the winter to make this happen. Both Chris [Atkinson] and Alister [McRae] have driven fantastically for this result. The PROTON Motorsports team has really pulled together for this result. The cars have been fantastic throughout the weekend. Obviously, with the guys taking a good lead over their nearest rivals into the second day, we talked about our approach, which was about delivering on the promise we’d shown yesterday. And we certainly did that on the rally which means the most to us all. And the good thing is that there is more to come from the car. We now look forward to the next Intercontinental Rally Challenge round [Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles] next month. But, for now, two Malaysian rally cars on the podium of Malaysia’s biggest rally of the season is the perfect result. ”

Event data:
Round: 1/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Kota Tinggi, Johor Bahru
Stages: 15
Liaison distance: 353.31km
Competitive distance: 233.76km
Total distance: 587.07km
Conditions: 40 degrees, dry
Day one leader: Chris Atkinson PROTON
Winner: Chris Atkinson PROTON

Next event:
International Rally of Queensland (May 13-15)
Run on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, this event is one of the youngest, but most popular rounds of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. This will be the International Rally of Queensland’s third season in the APRC, but the gravel roads around Imbil are among the most entertaining of the year. The Friday night superspecial stage which thrilled the local fans last year, will be repeated on Saturday night this time around, ensuring there’s even more action for the Queenslanders to enjoy. The biggest cheer, of course, would be for a local win for Queesnland’s most famous rallying export: Chris Atkinson.

The 2011 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship:

International Rally of Queensland (May 13-15)

Rally de Nouvelle Caledonie (June 17-19)

Rally of Whangarei (July 16-17)

Rally Hokkaido (September 30-October 2)

China Rally Longyou (November 4-6)

Malaysian Rally preview - March 31, 2011

PROTON Motorsports returns to the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) on this week’s Malaysian Rally. And the Malaysian manufacturer is more determined than ever to deliver in front of its home fans.

After concluding last year’s APRC with a series win in China, the PROTON team has worked solidly through the winter on the Satria Neo S2000. And, when they drove the new car for the first time, PROTON’s Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson were delighted. Both of them know they’ve got the ideal car for this year’s championship and now they want to make the most of it.

The Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is one of the world’s toughest, which is why it’s sanctioned by the governing body of world motorsport; if you want an FIA title and the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with the winner of the FIA World Rally and Formula 1 World Championship at the awards ceremony in Monaco, you’ve got earn it. And earning it for PROTON, McRae and Atkinson starts right here in Johor Bahru, Malaysia this week.

The Malaysian Rally gets under way with a ceremonial start on Friday afternoon. The crews will play themselves in with a crowd-pleasing superspecial stage around the rally’s base at the Angsana Complex – the first of its kind on this event. But, for the weekend, the rallying gets hotter and much, much tougher.

The forests and plantation roads of the Kota Tinggi region, north-east of Johor Bahru, will host the fastest cars and drivers in the Asia-Pacific region on what will be a typically gruelling Malaysian Rally. The gravel tests are some of the most twisty and technical on the calendar; the cars will rarely be in the top half of the gearbox as they wind their way through this beautiful countryside. Physically, there is no bigger challenge than this. Allied to rocketing temperatures, the high level of humidity and lack of hair flowing into the cars will have a major effect on the crews. Dehydration and exhaustion regularly take their toll on drivers and co-drivers in Malaysia. The PROTON crews have pushed themselves to the limit in their preparation for this event – and the team have done the same with the car.

The Satria Neo S2000 is running with a revised suspension set-up, using Reiger Racing Suspension for the first time – and different characteristics in the engine. The two-litre motor produces more than 300 horsepower and offers consistent torque throughout the rev range.

Running in a tropical climate, there remains the threat of rain in the region and, when it comes, it can change the nature of the event in an instant. When wet, grip levels on the roads are slashed, forcing the drivers to rely on their talent and the car’s ability to find traction to get them to the end of the stage. And there are no drivers in this year’s Asia-Pacific Rally Championship as qualified to deal with the tricky conditions as McRae and Atkinson; between them, they have years of experience of rallying at the highest level. And, pre-season testing has shown, they’re as fast as ever. And more than ready to deliver on PROTON’s biggest rally outing of the year.


Quotes:
Chris Atkinson said:

“The car felt absolutely fantastic in the test. The change of suspension and alterations to the engine have really honed the whole package. The new Reiger suspension immediately gives you great confidence in placing the car on the road, we’re getting better traction and the improved damping is lessening the impact strain on the other areas of the car. When you have more confidence in the car you’re able to relax more driving it, everything flows much better and feels more natural. That’s where we’re at with the PROTON. You really need that kind of feeling on an event like the Malaysian Rally as well. This is such a tough physical challenge that you need everything to be working to get the best out of yourself. We’ve trained really hard for the event and during the rally the major thing is to stay hydrated and keep the core body temperature down. We’ll drink plenty of water and rehydration fluids to help us maintain concentration and avoid the kind of muscle ramps you can get if you do become dehydrated. We’ve had a great lead into this event, seeing so many of the PROTON employees and fans has been amazing. It really makes you realise how much the rally programme means to the company.”

Alister McRae said:
“There’s no doubting the challenge of the Malaysian Rally, it’s one of the toughest around. It’s amazing when you’re driving in these kind of conditions, it’s so hot and so humid. My co-driver [Bill Hayes] and I have been spending a lot of time on exercise bikes in a heat chamber to prepare ourselves, which seems to have worked, but the real test will be when the event starts. This isn’t a particularly fast and flowing event, there are lots of tight corners. But, after the great work the team have done in altering the characteristics of the engine, we’ve now got more torque lower down the revs, which will help to fire us out of those tight corners. We led this event last year and I really think we’ve got what it takes to win in Malaysia and that goes for the whole championship. I’d be very disappointed if Chris [Atkinson] and I aren’t battling all the way for the title. The commitment put into this car from MEM and PROTON is tremendous and Bill and I have matched that 100 per cent; I feel as excited and determined as I ever have done starting a new year. I love driving rally cars and I can’t wait to get going with this one.”

Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood (Head of PROTON Motorsports) said:
"There is no greater honour for PROTON than to be competing in front of our home fans. PROTON is a proud Malaysian car manufacturer of 25 years and the passion and performance we see in the PROTON Satria Neo S2000 is testament to the qualities we hold dear as a company. I am hugely excited to see Chris [Atkinson] and Alister [McRae] competing on our home stages and I'm hoping they will do PROTON proud with podium finishes. We must remember, however, there will be fierce competition from drivers like Mark Higgins, Cody Crocker, Katso Taguchi, Gaurav Gill and local ace Karamjit Singh. The Satria Neo S2000 is a high quality and high-performing motor car and we're all eager to see it in action this week."

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“I think this is the most excited I’ve been coming into the start of a season. The MEM team has worked very, very hard on this car and, from what we’ve seen in pre-season testing, we’ve come out with a strong and high-performance rally car. We had a year of learning with the PROTON Satria Neo S2000 last season and now we’re ready. It’s fantastic to come here to Malaysia, the home of PROTON, and see the real passion for the programme all around the country, not just in the PROTON factory, but nationwide. And now we have to deliver to those fans. On a practical level, the Malaysian Rally is a tough way to start the season. It’s one of the hardest events in the world, let alone the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, but challenges like this are why we are in the sport. And it’s not only the rally that’s tough, either – there is, as always, some fierce competition out there in this year’s APRC. But our drivers are delighted with the car and they’re ready for the year ahead.”

Event data:
Round: 1/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Kota Tinggi, Johor Bahru
Stages: 15
Liaison distance: 353.31km
Competitive distance: 233.76km
Total distance: 587.07km
Shakedown: Angsana Shopping Complex (Thursday March 31, 1530-1830)
Pre-event press conference: Grand Paragon Hotel (Friday April 1, 1000)
Post-event press conference: Grand Paragon Hotel (Sunday April 3, 1730)
Time difference: Malaysia is GMT+8hrs


Event timetable:
Friday April 1
Ceremonial start: Angsana Complex    1545
SS1 Angsana 1 (2.50km)    1635


Saturday April 2
SS2 Tai Tak – HQ (32.30km)    0923
SS3 Tai Tak – Pipeline (24.49km)    1021
SS4 Tai Tak – Fish Pond (17.69km)    1059
Service – Angsana Shopping Complex    1224
SS5 Tai Tak – HQ (32.30km)    1417
SS6 Tai Tak – Pipeline (24.49km)    1515
SS7 Tai Tak – Fish Pond (17.69km)    1553
SS8 Angsana 2 (2.50km)    1721
Service – Angsana Shopping Complex    1729

Sunday April 3
SS9 Tai Tak – Court House (12.42km)    0806
SS10 Tai Tak – Lukut (11.97km)    0830
SS11 Tai Tak – Mawai (14.26km)    0857
Service – Angsana Shopping Complex    1027
SS12 Tai Tak – Court House (12.42km)    1230
SS13 Tai Tak – Lukut (11.97km)    1254
SS14 Tai Tak – Mawai (14.26km)    1321
SS15 Angsana 3 (2.50km)    1454
Finish – Angsana Shopping Complex    1600

The 2011 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Malaysian Rally (April 1-3)
International Rally of Queensland (May 13-15)
Rally de Nouvelle Caledonie (June 17-19)
Rally of Whangarei (July 16-17)
Rally Hokkaido (September 30-October 2)
China Rally Longyou (November 4-6)

News release - 28/03/2011

PROTON drivers delighted with Satria Neo S2000 upgrades

The PROTON Motorsports Satria Neo S2000 will start this week’s Malaysian Rally with further developments on the engine and suspension.

Two cars will be driven on the opening round of this year’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship by Chris Atkinson (Australia) and Alister McRae (Scotland). Both drivers are delighted with their first test of the latest-specification PROTON.

The changes to the car include the use of Reiger Racing Suspension, with the Dutch firm an acknowledged expert in the field. As well as the new dampers, the Satria Neo S2000 benefits from engine developments, which offer more torque from the stunning two-litre Malaysian machine.

Atkinson and McRae test the cars again tomorrow, ahead of the ceremonial start of the Johor Bahru-based event on Friday (April 1). The rally finishes on Sunday (April 3).

PROTON Motorsports will contest this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge as well as the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.

Quotes:
Alister McRae said:
“The car is definitely stronger coming to the start of the first event. We drove it for the first time over the weekend, in the same place that we did a test last year and immediately it felt very, very good. For example, where we had to go down to first gear to get out of tighter corners last year, we’re able to leave the car in second and the improved torque lower down really pulls the car away and out of the bend.”

Chris Atkinson said:
“The dampers are such an important part of the car – they’re what connects everything to the road. Already from the first time you drive the car, you can feel improved traction and stability from the PROTON. That feeling translates into more confidence and more speed from the driver, it’s fantastic. I can’t wait to get the event started now!”

Chris Mellors (team principal)
said: “Just from talking to the guys, you can see the way they feel about the work we’ve been doing over the last couple of months. It’s tremendously exciting to be starting the season in APRC. We have been working with the Reiger engineers, developing this new system, while simultaneously improving the linear-nature of the power development and we’ve come out of the winter with a very, very competitive car. Like the guys are saying, we can’t wait to get going!”


News release - 26/01/2011

Double European Rally Champion Basso joins PROTON Motorsports


Italian rally star Giandomenico Basso will drive a PROTON Satria Neo S2000 on six rounds of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

The double FIA European Rally Champion will join two-time Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson at PROTON, ensuring the Malaysian team will field arguably the strongest driver line-up in the series.

Basso tested the Satria Neo S2000 for the first time in Italy earlier this month – and immediately felt comfortable in the British-prepared car. He will join Andersson for six asphalt rounds of the IRC this season (Rally Islas Canarias, Prime Yalta Rally, Geko Ypres Rally, Rali Vinho Madeira, Barum Czech Rally Zlin, Mecsek Rallye and Rallye Sanremo).

The 37-year-old completed 300 kilometres of testing in two days and will return to the PROTON for a further two days of running before his debut with the team on Gran Canaria next month (April 14-16).

PROTON Motorsports tested further drivers in Italy, with a third factory-supported Satria Neo S2000 likely to be running on selected IRC rounds later this season.


Giandomenico Basso said:
“I am very happy to join PROTON Motorsports. When I drove the car in Italy, I felt two things: I felt the car was good and I felt a warmth in the team – I know I can work well with PROTON. The engine felt strong straight away, we have some small work to do to get power into different areas, but it’s good. The car was also easy to drive, which is really important, especially when you have events which can have changeable conditions – it gives you confidence. We know we have some work ahead in order to improve the overall perfomances to bring the Proton Satria close to the top group and we are excited about that. I’m really looking forward to the first event with the team, everything is very positive and it’s great to be back working with a manufacturer.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We’re delighted to have Giandomenico joining us for the IRC programme. He comes with a wealth of experience of the sport at this level and there’s no doubt he’s going to give us an extra edge on the rallies where he’s competing. Everything went very well with Giandomenico from the start. The two days of testing he did were great, we had no issues and we got on really well. We completed some engine work during the test, looking at different engine strategies, and some set-up work. He was pleased with the car and we were pleased with him. We’ve got more developments coming on the car all of the time: the suspension is the next area we are looking at.

“This is an exciting time for PROTON Motorsports. Not only have we finalised the IRC programme with this exciting development, but we have the potential for a third car on some [IRC] rounds – there’s a huge level of interest in the car and the team right now. And, let’s not forget, we’ve got Malaysia Rally, the first round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship coming up next month. We finished last year’s Asia Pacific series with a win – and we’re looking to get 2011 under way in exactly the same fashion with our APRC drivers Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson.”


About Basso…

Giandomenico began his motorsport career aged eight at the wheel of a kart. He competed at all levels in karting before switching to rallying at the age of 21.

Basso has gone on to become one of Italy’s most successful rally drivers. After just missing out on a podium in the Junior World Rally Championship in 2002, he went on to dominate the European rally scene, taking the FIA European Rally Championship title twice in four years (2006 and 2009).

Basso won the inaugural Intercontinental Rally Challenge title in 2006, with wins on the Ypres Rally and Madeira Rally.

He won his home title, the Italian Rally Championship in 2009.

Basso drove for the Turin-based Abarth factory team for four years between 2006 and 2009.


Andersson signs for PROTON Motorsports

January 20, 2011

Sweden’s Per-Gunnar Andersson has signed to drive for PROTON Motorsports in this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

The 30-year-old made his debut with the team on the Monte Carlo Rally, round one of the IRC, this week and is looking forward to driving the Satria Neo S2000 throughout 2011.

“It’s fantastic to have a season of driving confirmed,” said Andersson. “The Satria is a great car and to have the chance to be working with a manufacturer like PROTON is very good news for me. There is some work to do with the car, we know that, but in the short time I have been with the team preparing for Monte Carlo, we have made some big steps forward and I have every confidence that working with Chris [Mellors, team principal] and the whole of PROTON we can really make a very good year in 2011.”

Andersson’s ability as a driver is beyond question; he has won two world titles already, capturing the 2004 and 2007 Junior World Rally Championship crowns with Suzuki. Andersson was also selected to spearhead Suzuki’s first ever assault on the full World Rally Championship in 2008. Last season, he was drafted into the Stobart M-Sport Ford World Rally Team and finished seventh on his maiden outing in a Focus RS WRC.

PROTON Motorsports team principal Chris Mellors is delighted to have secured a double world title winner for 2011. He said: “Anybody who has seen P-G driving up close can be in no doubt about the kind of speed he is capable of. We’re really looking forward to working with him this season. With Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae confirmed for the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and P-G confirmed for the IRC, we’re looking at a very strong driver line-up through this year. There’s no doubt this is going to be a very exciting season for PROTON Motorsports.”

PROTON Motorsports will enter two Satria Neo S2000s in this year’s IRC and will announce who joins Andersson in the team for the second round of the series (Rally Islas Canarias, April 14-16) in the near future.


Monte Carlo Rally update

January 19, 2011


P.G. Andersson made his debut with PROTON on the Monte Carlo rally today

PROTON Motorsports suffered a disappointing start to the opening day of the Monte Carlo Rally, with neither Satria Neo S2000 making it back to Valence this evening.

The team arrived at the centenary edition of the opening round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge with high hopes of a good result, following positive pre-event testing and engine developments for the PROTON. Double Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson made a solid start on his debut in a Satria Neo S2000, running just outside the top 10 on the opening stage of the world’s most famous rally.

Unfortunately for the Swede, his run came to an end eight kilometres into the second stage, when his Satria suffered damage from an early puncture.

Atkinson’s car was halted near the start of Le Moulinon-Antraigues with an electrical issue. With no superally available to the competitors, both PROTONs have retired from the IRC opener.


Quotes
Chris Atkinson said:

“When I woke up this morning, I was really looking forward to driving the car. There’s nothing like the feeling of driving one of these rally cars as fast as you can down a stage, it’s awesome and it’s why we do what we do. And everything was cool from the start, no dramas, warmed the tyres up, off the line, everything was good, then nothing. We were less than a kilometre in and the car stopped. The engine had cut and there was nothing, no electrics at all. We couldn’t start the car. I tried to fix it, but there was nothing we could do. The team have looked at the data now and the problem was caused by a voltage surge which blew the control box. This has never happened to us before in testing or anything, it’s an absolute mystery – but when things don’t go your way, they really don’t go your way. The frustration is that we had the engine working really well in the test, it was great. The performance is definitely coming. It's actually a really unusual feeling on the event, this was the first time I’ve retired on the first stage of an event and been completely out of the rally. I’m not a huge fan of superally [the regulation permitting crews to re-enter events on the following day], but I really would have been today. It just seems such a waste that we’ve now got two perfect rally cars sitting here doing nothing; the fans would love to have seen the cars on the stages tomorrow and P-G and I would love to have been driving them.”

P-G Andersson said:
“The first stage was good, no problems. I wasn’t pushing too hard, it was the first stage and we wanted to settle down. About five kilometres into the second stage, there was a double right-hander into a left, the car slid a little wide. I saw a ditch coming, there were some leaves in the ditch, but I thought it would be okay. It wasn’t, there was a big stone hiding under the leaves; we hit the stone and broke the front-left wheel rim, which caused us to have a puncture. Three kilometres later, while we were braking for a hairpin, one of the arm’s broke on the car and the wheel turned out. That was it, there was nothing we could do. We had to stop. I tried to fix it, but it was very doubtful that we would have got the car to service after the next stage. It’s really disappointing that this is the result of our debut with PROTON. Clearly, the car has good potential and it would have been fantastic to take a result for the team on my first time in the Satria, but it hasn’t gone that way. The new engine was good, we were getting more power lower down in the rev range, it was easier to drive than before. It’s just so frustrating that we don’t have superally to go out and do some more driving in the car, it would have been very useful to get some testing mileage done.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“The whole team is feeling the frustration from what has happened today, that goes without saying. We were all really upbeat coming into Monte Carlo, we’d done four days’ testing in the Alps and another three back in the UK – and we hadn’t put a spanner on the car. And today we have one car out with a simple accident, if you can call it an accident, and one car out with a freak electrical issue. I honestly wonder if there’s anything left for us to see, it’s just incredible. It’s a real shame for Chris [Atkinson], he’s gone out very early, but P-G [Andersson] took a sensible approach and came out of SS1 in 11th, I’m confident we would have been well inside the top 10 if it hadn’t been for his problems. We came here with a revised specification of engine and that worked well, the drivers were pleased with the way it was working – delivering the torque lower down in the rev range. We’ve taken some steps and we have seen the benefits from those steps, that’s one of the good things we take from here. Despite what has happened, there’s still a huge positivity around the team, we all know what PROTON Motorsports and this car is capable of. We’re unlocking the potential, there’s more to come."

Monte Carlo Rally preview

January 16, 2011

PROTON Motorsports’ season gets underway on Wednesday, on the most famous event of them – the Monte Carlo Rally.

For the first time ever, the French Alps will reverberate to the Satria Neo S2000’s stunning soundtrack as Chris Atkinson (Australia) and P-G Andersson (Sweden) aim to follow in the footsteps of some of the sport’s greatest ever names to win the Monte Carlo Rally.

While this is the first time for the car in Monte Carlo, both drivers have a solid track record on what’s widely recognised as one of the world’s most treacherous rallies. Running through the mountains in the middle of winter provides an ever-changing range of weather conditions and grip levels. As the crews round the mountain from the sunshine on the south-side to the shade of the north, clear asphalt can turn to sheet ice in the turn of a corner. But, waiting for them at the finish, are the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean and the world-famous principality of Monaco.

Away from the rally, Monaco is famous for its casinos – and this week provides the teams with their biggest gamble of the season. That gamble involves tyre choices, pretty straightforward on other events, it’s anything but on the Monte. Typically, a stage starts lowdown the mountain – below the freezing level – but then the competition runs up into the ice and snow before descending to the finish on dry or wet asphalt. What do you do? Slick, wet, intermediate, ice tyre or full snow? This rally can be won and lost on a single tyre choice.

Important as the Monte Carlo Rally is, this year’s event is even more so as the organisers, the Automobile Club de Monaco, celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first ever Monte. That impressive centenary is reflected in the worldwide following for this opening round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, with Eurosport screening 12 of 13 stages live.

PROTON Motorsports has worked flat out through the off-season, ensuring the two Satria Neo S2000s arrive at Wednesday’s start in Valance in perfect condition. The cars have a new specification of engine and damper and will provide a significant challenge to the IRC’s established order. Having contested selected rounds of last year’s series, 2011 will be PROTON’s first major IRC programme and the British-based squad are looking forward to a solid start.

MEM, the firm which prepares PROTON’s Satria Neo S2000s, are no strangers to success on the Monte Carlo Rally having taken a one-two finish in the Production Car category in 2006.

This time around the stakes – like those being played for in Casino Square – are higher as PROTON roll the dice on the most famous rally of them all.


Quotes
Chris Atkinson said:

“Last time I did the Monte Carlo Rally, I finished on the podium, so I have some pretty good memories of the event. It’s a tough rally, there’s no doubt about that, with the conditions changing constantly. But we’ve had a good test, it’s great to be back in the car and driving again, this event is the natural start to a rally driver’s season, so it’s fantastic to be here. I haven’t competed much on asphalt since Ypres last year, so the test was really important for me to kind of dial myself back in. We tried all sorts of tyre combinations and suspension set-ups, which is crucial for this event – and we were pretty fortunate with the weather as we had wet and dry running on both the roads we were testing on. I’m just looking forward to the start now, can’t wait to get driving the PROTON again.

P-G Andersson said:
“I’m really happy with the way the test went. We did two days and a lot of kilometres. Like my first test in the PROTON [in December], the car responded well to the changes we made to it. We drove in rain and in the dry, so, after the snow on the first test, we have now covered all of the possible conditions for Monte Carlo. It’s not going to be an easy event, it never is. There’s a good entry with a lot of very good drivers, but we didn’t have any problems at all in the testing we did with the car. I’m not going to predict a result, all I want is a trouble-free run. If we can get that, then anything can happen on this rally. We have all seen the way the Monte Carlo Rally can work before, you have the first stage and everything is normal, then after the second stage you can lose lots of cars and everything has gone a little bit crazy. When the grip is always changing, it’s that kind of rally. It would be nice if the weather stayed dry, to give us some predictable conditions, but if it’s a typical Monte with lots of changes of weather and grip, then this can make it interesting. We know from the test that we have a very good chassis with good grip in all of the conditions.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“Monte Carlo is one of the world’s classic rallies, but it’s also among the most capricious – a great way to start PROTON Motorsports’ season in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. We’ve had four very good days of testing for this rally. The drivers are happy and the whole team is happy and relaxed. It’s impossible to try and predict a result on a rally like this one, but what we are certain about is our preparation for the first event of 2011: they couldn’t have been better. We completed rally distance in the tests before the event and didn’t have to put a spanner on the car, so we’re very happy with that. The number one aim for PROTON Motorsports is to come away from Monte Carlo with some solid points on the board, to set us up well for the year ahead. I’m really looking forward to the event, though. Like I said, everything has gone well pre-event and now we want to carry that positivity into the rally itself. Both Chris and P-G have experience of the Monte, with Chris’s last outing netting him a podium – we’d settle for a similar result next week.”

Event data
Round 1/1, Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Based: Valence/Monaco
Stages: 13
Liaison distance: 1,004.69km
Competitive distance: 337.06km
Total distance: 1,341.75km
Pre-event press conference: 1700 Tuesday January 18, Valence
Post-event press conference: 1230 Saturday January 22, Monaco
Time difference: France/Monaco is GMT+1hr


Event timetable
Wednesday January 19
SS1 Le Moulinon-Antraigues (36.87km)    1005
Tyres service Vals    1055
SS2 Burzet-St Martial (41.06km)    1140
SS3 St Bonnet-le-Froid-St Bonnet-le-Froid (25.22km)     1411
Tyres service Lalouvesc    1456
SS4 St Bonnet-le-Froid-St Bonnet-le-Froid (25.22km)     1620
Service Valence    1815

Thursday January 20
SS5 St Jean-en-Royans-Font D’Urle (23.05km)    1223
SS6 Cimetiere de Vassieux-Col de Gaudissart (24.13km)    1304
Service Valence    1444
SS7 St Jean-en-Royans-Font D’Urle (23.05km)    1607
SS8 Cimetiere de Vassieux-Col de Gaudissart (24.13km)    1648
Service Valence    1813

Friday January 21
SS9 Montauban Sur L’Ouveze-Eygalayes (29.89km)    0908
Service Monaco    1353
SS10 Moulinet-La Bollene-Vesubie (23.41km)    1915
SS11 Lantosque-Luceram (18.81km)    1958
Service Monaco
SS12 Moulinet-La Bollene-Vesubie (23.41km)    2325
SS13 Lantosque-Luceram (18.81km)    0008

Saturday January 22
Ceremonial finish Monaco    1100



Andersson delivers on first test in PROTON

December 18, 2010

Double Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson has completed his first test in the PROTON Satria Neo S2000 he will drive on next month’s Monte Carlo Rally.

The 30-year-old Swede drove the Satria for two days just south of Grenoble earlier this week and was delighted with the PROTON. Andersson will join regular PROTON driver Chris Atkinson in the team’s first assault on the opening round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the Monte Carlo Rally.




Both Andersson and Atkinson will return to the French Alps early next month when they will carry out an extensive pre-event test in preparation for what’s being billed as one of the toughest and most competitive rallies of the season.

For Andersson’s first drive, the PROTON ran in its current 2010 specification, with the next evolution of the two-litre engine ready for his next test. He completed more than 200 kilometres of trouble-free running in heavy snow.


Quotes
P-G Andersson said:
“I knew from a long time ago, from talking to the other drivers, that the PROTON chassis was good – and it really is good. I’m very pleased with the first test. As the conditions on the test changed a little bit, we made some changes to the chassis and you could feel those changes straight away. It was good to get plenty of running on studded tyres before the Monte. By the end of the second day of the test, we did have a clean line coming on the road and we were able to run without the studs, but it would be good to get some time on dry asphalt on the next test. I’m really looking forward to the event now. I feel positive with the car and the team. The Monte is going to be a very big event for everybody, there are a lot of very good drivers coming out for the event and the competition will be tough. But I’m very happy with the PROTON and where I am for the start of the season.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said: “We’ve been very impressed with what P-G achieved from his first two days in the car. He’s gelled immediately with the team and we’re all looking forward to working together next season. We got some great winter conditions for the test, it was between minus nine and minus 13 degrees for the two days. P-G did plenty of driving, including some running in the dark and he was very happy with the car. It was a very productive two days, but the next test, next month, is where we will finalise the set-up for P-G and Chris before the start of the Monte. This is a great way for PROTON Motorsports to end 2010, ahead of what’s clearly going to be an even more exciting 2011!”

Briefing:
PROTON Motorsports

The Malaysian manufacturer will contest the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship with two of the sport’s biggest names, Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae, driving the British-built Satria Neo S2000s. McRae and Atkinson will be looking to build on the one-two finish they achieved on the final round of this year’s APRC in China. In addition to its Asian commitment, PROTON Motorsports will compete on 10 rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the world’s most competitive series for Super 2000 rally cars.

The Monte Carlo Rally
Running from Wednesday January 19 to Saturday January 22. The world’s oldest rally celebrates its 100th anniversary next month. Starting in Valence, this exceptionally tough event runs through the Ardeche region before ending with the legendary road from Moulinet to La Bollene-Vesubie in the Alpes Maritimes; this particular stage includes possibly the most famous mountain pass in motorsport: the Col de Turini. The popularity of the world’s most famous rally knows no bounds, the event has been oversubscribed three times and there will be standing room only when the champagne corks pop outside the Prince’s Palace of Monaco at the finish. For those unable to make the trip, the television coverage of this year’s Monte Carlo Rally is also making history, by being the first IRC round to run with live coverage of every stage from Eurosport.


PROTON to challenge in FIA Asia-Pacific and IRC series


December 5, 2010

PROTON Motorsports will start its 2011 programme of events with next month's Monte Carlo Rally, where regular driver Chris Atkinson will be joined by P-G Andersson.

Two-time FIA Junior World Rally Champion Andersson (Sweden) brings plenty of experience to the PROTON Motorsports, having previously driven for the Suzuki and Ford World Rally Teams.

While confirming its drivers for the January 19-22 Intercontinental Rally Challenge opener, PROTON can also confirm it will contest 10 rounds of the IRC and the full FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship with the Satria Neo S2000.

In addition to Atkinson and Andersson, Scotsman Alister McRae will remain with the Malaysian manufacturer for next season, contesting the APRC series and selected rounds of the IRC.

For now though, all eyes are on the French Alps and the forthcoming Monte Carlo Rally. Next year's rally will be one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the motorsporting calendar as the world's oldest rally celebrates its centenary year. First run in 1911, the 2011 itinerary poses a considerably tougher challenge than it did 100 years ago.

Starting from Valence, in the heart of the Ardeche region, next month's event will take crews through the stages which have built the legend of this rally down the years. And, just when the competitors think the event can't get any tougher, they arrive at the overnight final loop which takes them over the classic Col de Turini - a stretch of road which has caused more than its fair share of upset, intrigue and delight in equal measure. And it's before the passionate and frenzied fans on top of the Turini that PROTON aims to deliver its first result of the season.

PROTON is already building new Satria Neo S2000s for next season, with the test car already heading south for the Alps to start testing with Atkinson and Andersson early next week.

The Monte Carlo Rally is nothing new to both PROTON's drivers, with Australian Atkinson arriving in the principality with three starts and three finishes on an event that's rated among the most difficult in the world. Atkinson has never finished outside the top six and collected a FIA World Rally Championship podium last time out in 2008.

Andersson has also contested the rally three times, taking a strong eighth place on the 2008 event.


Quotes:
Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir (Proton MD) said:

"We are extremely proud to be able to reveal our plans for the 2011 rally programme. This development represents yet more exciting news from PROTON, which celebrates its 25th birthday this year. It's incredible to think how far we have come for such a relatively young company. But this is just the beginning for PROTON. Thanks to the close alliance with MEM in the UK, the rally team will go from strength to strength, embracing the cutting-edge technology which runs through the PROTON road car range. Competing at such a high level of rallying across the globe offers PROTON the perfect opportunity to showcase its range of road cars. And all of those cars sold to our valued customers contain a little piece of our rallying DNA; the same spirit of performance, expertise and reliability which will undoubtedly carry the Satria Neo S2000 to the greatest of heights next season."


Chris Atkinson said:
"Starting the season with the Monte is awesome. As a rally driver, this is the traditional place where we always start our year. I've always gone well on the event, but it is really tough. Running high in the Alps in January, you never know what's really coming around the next corner: it could be dry asphalt, wet asphalt, snow or ice. It's a massive challenge for the team and the driver, with one of the most important aspects being to get the tyres right. I'm looking forward to continuing my strong record there with PROTON. As for the rest of the year, it's great to have everything sorted out with a really forward-looking team like PROTON. There was definitely a feeling of leaving some unfinished business in the APRC last season, so we'll be back bigger, better and stronger on some of the hottest and toughest rallies in the world next year."

P-G Andersson said:
"It's great to be joining the PROTON team for Monte, I can't wait to get the testing started. It's been a couple of years since I was on this rally the last time, but I have always made good stage times there and it's a rally I like. Of course, the conditions can make it tough, but if you have to gamble with the tyre choice then you can always make some big gains. Drivers tend to like grip from the car, so a dry Monte would be nice, but if we have a lot of snow it's always fantastic to drive in these conditions. For now, we are with PROTON for Monte, but we will be talking straight after the rally to see what is possible for the future. I'm very happy to join a team which is looking forward to a good future in the sport."

Alister McRae said:
"I'm really pleased to be involved with the team for 2011. We showed some great potential through last year and with everything in place, I think we can build on that for next season. The Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is the thrust of the programme for me and going into next year off the back of the first APRC one-two in China is great news for PROTON. I was third in the APRC this year and my priority is to improve on that, hopefully by two places!"

Chris Mellors (Team Principal) said:
"We've had an extremely positive few weeks since the end of our season, with PROTON confirming its significant investment in the car, the team and infrastructure for next season. To have the programme signed off is great news and to have PROTON so thoroughly behind us on this makes for a very exciting year ahead. On a more practical footing, we have already begun our testing for Monte Carlo. Next week, P-G [Andersson] will drive the car for the first time in the Alps, where he will join our other entry for the Monte, Chris Atkinson. We've made some steps this season, but with everything in place for next we're looking to really push the PROTON Motorsports ahead in 2011."

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