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.
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.”
Round: 4/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Johor Bahru, Malaysia
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)
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