Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Overall win for Proton in NZ Rally

Proton’s Motorsports team, running the Satria Neo S2000, claimed its third successive victory in the 2011 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) with an overall win by Chris Atkinson in the International Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand which was run this weekend.

Three victories in four rounds of the APRC contested so far consolidate the team’s position at the top of the 2011 APRC Manufacturer’s and Driver’s standings, with two more rounds of the championship to be run (Rally of Hokkaido in Japan in September with the final round in China in November).
Alister McRae, the second team driver, finished seventh overall in the rally but was second amongst the registered APRC contenders to give Proton a 1-2 finish for maximum points in the championship. He was running third overall for most of the day in a battle with highly experienced Kiwi Richard Mason but a spin in the second last stage of the day moved him down.
The Proton name also featured in the 2-wheel drive category of the championship as drivers Karamjit Singh and Akira Bamba of the Proton Cusco Rally Team claimed first and second positions with their 1600 cc Satria Neos developed in Japan by Cusco.

They were 4th and 5th overall in the APRC classification, and 18th and 19th overall for the International Rally of Whangarei, respectively, from a field of 48 cars that restarted the second day of rallying. A third 1600 cc Satria Neo driven by Indian driver Sanjay Ram finished 21st. 
For Atkinson, the victory in New Zealand was his third after the rallies in Malaysia and New Caledonia. The Australian, who is a former World Rally Championship (WRC) driver, had a trouble-free run over the final day’s 8 Special Stages (SS) which were wet with occasional rain. He set the fastest times on 5 SS to finish 12.4 seconds ahead of local favourite Hayden Paddon in a Subaru Impreza WRX STi.
Chasing Atkinson to reduce a 6.2-second overnight lead, Paddon went off the road near the end of the second SS, bending a steering arm. Atkinson maintained great consistency throughout the 2-day event and even set a new record in the 10.99-km SS14, taking 5 seconds off the previous record held by Paddon.
“Proton finished second here last year and to win this time round reflects on the amount of work that has gone into developing a rally-winning car,” said Atkinson, who had seized the lead in the rally from the SS3 on the first day. "The Proton Satria Neo S2000 was trouble-free all weekend and I didn't have to do much with the set-up, with tyre choices deciding the day."
"It wasn't an easy rally though with Hayden Paddon putting lots of pressure on me all weekend! We’re now looking forward to the next rally in Japan," he added.
While the stages were generally fast and smooth flowing, the cold and wet conditions did provide a degree of challenge to drivers who were forced to contend with puddles and slippery patches. Among those who retired from the rally were the Team MRF’s and defending APRC champion Katsuhiko Taguchi and team mate Gaurav Gill, and Pertamina Cusco Racing’s Rifat Sungkar, all three driving the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
“This has been a fantastic result for Proton and a further testimony to the Satria Neo S2000’s 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,” said Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood, Head of Proton Motorsports. “What has been equally commendable is the performance of the 1600 cc Satria Neo in only its first year of competition. The Satria Neo’s competitiveness was underlined in New Zealand with the first and second placings in the 2-wheel drive category.”

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