Category Archives: Rally New Zealand

PROTON scores perfect one-two in New Zealand

 
International Rally of Whangarei reviewJuly 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

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)

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Rally Whangarei : Sweet podium finish

Apologies for the late update here on the PROTON Motorsports blog. I have been away for a bit…but I am back and I must say all of us at PROTON are just so happy for the PROTON R3 Malaysia Rally Team, we had our very first podium finish at the Rally of New Zealand. Finally, all hard work paid off for the team.

Let’s go through a quick recap of the New Zealand rally.

Attended by thousands of spectators, the rally, a four day event, run over the toughest of the North Island roads in typically changeable Kiwi conditions saw dry sunny conditions on Day 1 of the rally with a sudden bout of heavy rain on Sunday day 2. Suffice to say, visibility was poor on day 2 for the drivers and it was a challenge indeed.

Alister McRae, who drove on both days with the main aim to garner more points, was rewarded with an entirely untroubled second place.

Chris however, retired on day 1 due to a snapped alternator belt but returned on day 2 under super rally rules. He set the fastest time on SS9 but unfortunately had to stop at SS14 due to an unidentified engine problem.

Also, both Alister and Chris were regularly in the top three APRC times throughout the rally.

Alister & Bill were initially positioned at third place during the closing ceremony due to an error by the organizers which was later rectified.

Hayden Paddon in a Mitsubishi EVO IX and John Kennard, both Kiwi drivers, took victory on both days. 23 year old Hayden Paddon also won 13 of the event’s 16 competitive stages and set five new stage records.

You’ll find more updates and pictures on our Facebook page so if you’re not a fan, you should join us now.

Once again, well done to the team and here’s to PROTON’s first podium finish for 2010 and more to come!

Next up is the International Rally of Queensland. More details on the upcoming rally in future posts.

Leaving you with some quotes from the team and do have yourselves a splendid week ahead!

Alister McRae:
“I knew the car was capable of this kind of performance, and I know it’s capable of going quicker as well. Taking second in the APRC here is really important for the team, it’s a real shot in the arm for everybody. But now we want to win. We know we have the pace to win these APRC rounds and that’s got to be the next step in Australia at the end of the month. In the end, we had the perfect rally.

We didn’t have to touch the car at all, the boys didn’t lay a spanner on the PROTON once, which is really encouraging from a reliability point of view. We weren’t going anywhere near flat out with the car, though. The main aim from this event was to pick up points and that’s what we have done. What a great place to go rallying, though. Even in the pouring rain today, it was fantastic to drive those stages again. You can really put the hammer down and push on, knowing the car’s going to stick before leaping over the cambers and into the corner. It’s been a great weekend.”

Chris Atkinson:
“I love the roads down here in New Zealand and this car suited the stages perfectly. I was amazed at just how much speed you could carry through the corners in this car, there’s so much grip in the PROTON, it’s fantastic. We managed to set some competitive times on this event, which is pleasing. But what’s more important is that we know what we were doing to set those times and, believe me, there’s more to come from the car.

We arrived in Whangarei with a bit of pressure on, you know we hadn’t pulled the result we might have done in the IRC round [at Ypres] and while we’d shown great stage times and Alister led and almost won in Malaysia, we needed to put some points away down here. Unfortunately for us, we had a freak thing with the alternator belt on the first day: had it not been for that I reckon there would have been two PROTONs on the podium and who knows who would have been on which step! This has been a really positive and encouraging weekend.”

Chris Mellors (team principal):
“I’m happy with that result. Both drivers were out there under strict instructions about how to drive the cars, so we know there’s more to come from the Satria and Alister and Chris. I was really pleased with the way Chris went in particular, he showed some great speed and set some very good times, some of which we’re told were close to stage records set in the dry. Alister was, as usual, very competitive, quick and consistent.

We’ve had a bit of a tough run recently, so to be heading home with a result, second place under our belts, puts more wind in the sails. We’re going to be doing some more testing and more development work ahead of the next APRC round in Queensland. Like Alister said, we want to take that next step up the podium.”

A minute with Stephane Prevot

His thoughts on the APRC and recently concluded Rally Hokkaido:

“For sure it’s not a great start of the season but we’ll stay positive and we really enjoy it because the car is really good fun to drive. The car was working perfectly with the exception of the engine that resulted from yesterday which may have damaged it. It looks a tad challenging for the championships as we don’t have as much points after the two rallies as compared to others but we’re positive because we enjoy driving this car and working with the team. All the mechanics and people involved did a great job, and they managed to fix the car when it was in a bad condition and made it on time which is a great thing.

The next rally will probably be on the best rally roads in the world. New Zealand is always a rally that everyone likes; even with world championship drivers so we’re looking forward to Rally New Zealand. We’ll be driving in Belgium a week before New Zealand. I’m from Belgium, so I’m really proud to drive there with Chris in front of all the Belgian people and it’s also Chris’ first time driving there. We are really looking forward to New Zealand; we’re positive that have a good chance to win, we’ll have a lot of fun driving there and as I said earlier, the roads are the best in the world!”