PROTON Motorsports Fan Fare : My Monte Carlo Trip (Part 2)
So we all read about Zaki’s initial experience winning the Monte Carlo Rally Online Contest here. And now it’s time for the final installment. Read about Zaki’s experience in Monaco with the PROTON Motorsports team, at the world’s oldest rally – the Rallye of Monte Carlo held from 19th to 23rd January, 2011.
My Monte Carlo Trip
19th January 2011 – The first day of the rally finally arrived. We began the day with our hopes held high for the team to finish respectably. It was freezing cold that day, around 2 degrees celcius! Nevertheless we proceeded to SS1 after having breakfast and found a good spot to see the cars coming. The scenery was breathtaking along the way there. After an hour of waiting the first car passed by. A few more cars passed by and then it was our turn. The screaming yellow Proton Satria passed us at mindboggling speed, with PG behind the wheels and I just felt so proud. Then the bad news arrived. We discovered that Chris’ car was having an electrical problem and had retired from the race. We were disappointed but we still had PG to root for.
We headed to SS3 to cheer for PG. On our way there we got to know that PG had crashed and could not continue the race. We continued our journey to SS3 ; everybody was so down after the spate of bad news. I could not help but feel sorry for the team as they prepared well for the race and everything went down the drain after two stages. We didn’t have any appetite for lunch that day and instead just proceeded to the service park. When we arrived at the service park Chris was already there with the team investigating the cause of his retirement from the race; we found out that he suffered an electrical problem. After only driving for about 700 meters the car stopped. He certainly looked dejected as he was raring to go in the rally; nevertheless everybody in the team were encouraging and supporting him nevertheless. PG arrived soon after and we discovered that during the stage he had hit a rock at a curb and broke the suspension arm of the car. He could not drive the Neo anymore.. and he limped back to the checkpoint. I thought that super rally rules apply here but apparently it doesn’t apply for the Monte Carlo Rally, and so the team’s progress in the rally came to a halt. We then headed back to our hotel. We had a feast that night as the Nasi Kandar Kayu owner Mr Sirajudin cooked us curry with roti canai and we literally gulped the food that night. En. Sirajudin was also in Monaco to witness the rally with us.
20th January 2011 – Since the team had already packed up we decided to head to Monaco and drive around the scenic routes to get there. Ryan our driver took us to some really nice roads and beautiful scenery and we all wished that it would snow. We didn’t see any snow until we drove through the Napoleon route. We were all jumping with joy playing with snow and satisfied that our wish had come true. We almost didn’t make it to Monaco as it was snowing heavily causing slippery roads along the drive. Thankfully we made it through and arrived at our hotel that night. I took this opportunity to explore Monaco and do some sightseeing as well as enjoy dinner with the group.
21st January 2011 – We had our breakfast together then walked around Monaco to take pictures, then we visited the service park. Nik, me and several others from the group decided to trace the famous Formula 1 track of Monaco. Who would have thought after the first corner of the track the climb was quite steep, it didn’t look that way at all on tv! We headed to the service park and stayed there for a while until 2pm to head back to the hotel to join the group. We were going to SS10 to the famous spot: Col De Turini! I had been looking forward to this event.
It took about 3 hours to get there. When we arrived there the temperature was -5 degree celcius and we were all literally freezing cold. We walked to a particular corner and took our place. The atmosphere there was simply amazing. There were people playing musical instruments, people with flares, people chanting the names of their favourite drivers and many other things happening. Some brave guys even sprayed the road with the names of their favourite carmakers and one guy even brought a chainsaw but without the cutting blade just to make some noise! It was hilarious as some people were throwing big chunks of snow to the road. According to Ryan the snow would cause the roads to be more slippery, rendering the cars a little unstable so the people would have a chance to witness some sliding action! Amazingly the police just looked on and let it all happen right in front of their eyes. How sporting of them. I guess as long as there is no real trouble caused, they did not have to worry.
Night soon approached. I saw a light from a distance followed by the sound of an engine. The drivers had arrived! One by one I watched them pass me by as they twisted and turned around the corners challenged by the snow. The “Night of the Long Knives” lived up to its name. As they passed by I thought to myself how wonderful it would have been if our Proton had still remained in the competition. But this is rallying. Just about anything can happen.
Around 10pm the first event ended. The racers would return in the opposite direction but the group decided to head back to the service park. With that the rally reached its final stage at SS12. I wanted to go to the service park but I was just too tired and headed off to bed.
22nd January 2011 – Today the prize giving ceremony took place. Nik and I decided to head out early to walk around Monaco in the morning and attend the ceremony. We went to the Prince’s Palace to witness the event. Bryan Bouffier secured his maiden win in the Monte Carlo Rally and in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Congratulations! The ceremony began at 11am and ended at 1pm. We then went to do some shopping and made our way back to hotel. Later that night we all went to dinner, took some memorable photos among ourselves and even managed to do some late night shopping!
23rd January 2011 – My final day in Monaco. We went for breakfast and stumbled across a flea market. They sell lots of things, ranging from fruits to clothes. We spent some time there and headed back to the hotel to pack our things. The it was off to the airport after bidding farewell to our drivers. Sad to leave France but happy to be heading to our homeland.
How do I sum up my entire experience? Well, the whole week was a journey and adventure that I will never forget in my entire life. The places, events and friends that I have encountered is priceless. To the rally team, keep up the good work. I know you guys have what it takes to succeed so don’t give up. To the committee members and the media crew, you guys rock! Thank you for this experience. Thank you for the hospitality. And finally, thank you PROTON for making my dream come true!