PROTON MOTORSPORTS SCORES POINTS IN CHALLENGING CZECH RALLY
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 among a total of 123 competitors. 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 tarmac 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).
“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. I feel that I know the car now and I can take it to the limit more and more. It’s good.” Said PG Andersson.
“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. We showed the reliability and that was good to show.” Said Giandomenico Basso.
“We’re very pleased with the way the weekend has gone. Although we’ve had some punctures and some minor off-road excursions, but at the end of the event we have shown a significant step forwards in the development of the PROTON Satria Neo S2000. 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.” Said Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood, Head of PROTON Motorsports.
“We have shown what we are capable of. We also have no illusions here and know that there is still much work to be done with the car. We believe we are on the right track here and know what areas of the car we will focus our attention on next.” He added.
The Czech rally was dominated by Skoda finishing in the top three positions with local driver, Jan Kopecky taking the top honours. Out of 123 starters, 34 competitors failed to finish the gruelling rally which comprised of 248.48km of competitive stages run over a total distance of 619.73km.