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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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A preview of the Geko Ypres Rally

Fresh after their victory in the third round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in New Caledonia, the PROTON boys are now headed north of the equator for the Geko Ypres Rally, round five of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

Swedish P-G Andersson and Italian Giandomenico Basso will be reunited with their Satria Neo S2000s for the all-asphalt Belgian classic. Two-time European Rally Champion, Basso is a former winner of the Geko Ypres Rally; Andersson will rely heavily on his team-mate’s knowledge as the double Junior World Rally Champion has never competed on the rally previously.

The Geko Ypres Rally is based around the town of Ypres in north-west Belgium. And, next week, that town is taken over by hundreds of thousands of rally fans from across the continent. The event is a true classic and an enormous challenge. Unlike any other asphalt rounds in the championship, the smooth Belgian roads slice their way through the farmland with only square corner after square corner likely to slow the speeding Satrias.

In a hectic, 30-hour schedule, Basso and Andersson will tackle a 649-kilometre route, including 18 stages that comprise 287 competitive kilometres.  What makes this event even tougher is the notoriously fickle weather and the fact that five of the stages will be run in fading light or complete darkness.

When the PROTONs arrive at the Grote Markt in the centre of Ypres at the end of Saturday, they will have completed one of rallying’s toughest tests.

And don’t forget, just six days earlier, Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae will have done the same thing on the earth’s other side.

Quotes:

P-G Andersson said:

“I have never done this rally before, but I have seen the stages and the number of people out there spectating is just incredible. I think we’re in for a rally with a lot of atmosphere! Unfortunately, I think it can be quite tough for drivers to go there without so much experience and try to win the rally; some of the roads are quite specialised. We showed last time in Ukraine that the team is making good progress with the car, the car is definitely getting quicker, and I’m sure we will continue to do the same in Belgium.”

Giandomenico Basso said:

“I’m looking forward to this event, I have won here before and it’s always a big challenge with a lot of really fast local drivers. The last rally we did [the PRIME Yalta Rally] with the car showed that we have made progress with the Satria. This is the good thing, the car is better and better, we are really improving. I want to come out and be fast in Ypres.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:

“Ypres is one of the biggest rallies in Europe and you always get a great welcome when you get over there. As a team, we’re looking to deliver on the promise we showed in Yalta; analysing the times, you can see that we’re right on the cusp with the car. We believe we have the right package to deliver a result in Ypres, we’ve certainly got the most talented drivers in P-G and Giandomenico. P-G’s right when he says it will be tough to go to that event for the first time, but he’s going to be able to get some good advice from Giandomenico, who has won in the past. But, before that next IRC round, we’re competing in New Caledonia in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship this weekend. Obviously, we’re eager to see what the boys can do on that event. It would be nice to go to Belgium on the back of a second APRC win of the year.”

As usual, stay tuned to our official Facebook page for live results and updates. Have a great week folks.

PROTON Motorsports Exhilarating Podium Finish in New Caledonia!

They did it! The team finished first and third place overall at the Rally De Nouvelle Caledonie last weekend to clinch its second successive victory after three rounds of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC).

PROTON@podium

Chris scored his second win of the season, together with co-driver Stephane Prevot in the all famous yellow Neo finishing the three-day event ahead of Pertamina Cusco Racing’s Rifat Sungkar in the more powerful turbocharged Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.

Meanwhile, Alister drove to a hard-fought third place after having conceded his early lead in the rally due to a puncture and broken driveshaft.

Victory in New Caledonia saw team PROTON claiming not only the overall victory, but also top honors amongst the APRC contenders and finishing first in the Pacific Cup. PROTON also clinched the APRC Team Trophy at the event.

“It’s a phenomenal result for PROTON, the entire team and for Stephane and I personally. Our rally wasn’t exactly trouble free especially with a broken driveshaft in day 2 but we were lucky we had built a big enough gap to have it replaced and still hang on to the lead,” said Chris.

“In terms of power, performance and reliability, the Satria Neo S2000 performed like a gem this weekend.”

A superb shot of the Neo in action!

With maximum points scored in New Caledonia, Chris moves into the lead of the APRC Driver’s Championship with 58 points, just two points ahead of Alister. In third place is currently Team MRF’s Gaurav Gill who retired in New Caledonia. Alister also reclaims the top spot in the Asia Cup Driver’s Championship ahead of Gill. Also moving to first and second places in the APRC Co-Driver’s Championship are Stephane Prevot and Billy Hayes with 58 and 56 points respectively.

The team now stretches its lead in the APRC Teams Trophy with 128 points ahead of Team MRF that had both drivers retiring in New Caledonia.

And as a bonus, Karamjit Singh also won the Two-Wheel Drive Category in his 1600cc Satria Neo which extends his lead in the Driver’s Championship and PROTON’s lead in the Manufacturer’s Championship to 78 points respectively. Karamjit finished ninth overall in the rally.

So of course everyone’s over the moon with the victory, and rightfully so. It goes to show how competitive the Neo S2000 is, despite enduring its share of misfortunes and technical issues along the way this year. The cars competed against more powerful turbocharged cars and won rallies!

We’re so proud of the team and wish them all the best as they move on to the Ypres Rally in Belgium coming up very soon.

Meanwhile, check out exclusive photos of the New Caledonia rally and behind the scene photos of the team including amazing pictures of the island and its people at our official Facebook page.

PROTON takes fourth at Rally of Queensland

Four’s not such a bad number. It’s better than being at fifth 5 and certainly a lot higher than 10.  At the Rally of Queensland that took place sometime mid May, Alister and co-driver Bill fended off a series of misfortunes to give PROTON a strong fourth place finish.

Beginning the day with an eight second advantage over Mitsubishi’s Gaurav Gill, they were forced to relinquish the rally when the Proton Satria Neo S2000’s engine began misfiring after a water crossing in one of the day’s seven special stages. Their charge back to the top was dealt an even serious blow when they were forced to slow down considerably as a result of a broken drive shaft over 50km of the last three special stages of the rally, causing them to lose more time. Despite this, they managed to hang on to 4th place in front of a Rifat Sungkar of Indonesia, in his Mitsubishi Evolution 10.

“With no service interval, we were forced to slow down and nurse the car to the finish. It was a tough event, one that presented us with a lot of challenges. McRae and I are obviously disappointed in not being able to secure a podium finish but considering the circumstances, finishing fourth at least sees us heading to the next APRC round with valuable championship points,” said Bill.

Rejoining the final day of the rally after an early retirement on day two, Chris endured a second electrical failure which ended his rally.

The rally was won by British driver Mark Higgins, who finished 16 seconds ahead of Gill, while in third place was Japanese driver Katsuhiko Taguchi.

It was a hard fought rally, and while the team were hoping for a better result after a strong start, fourth place amidst an unfortunate last day will nevertheless go a long way in extending their position in the overall manufacturer’s championship, with full points on Leg 1 and some good points on Leg 2 with a 4th overall and 1st in Class 2.

Meanwhile, PROTON’s 1600cc group N Satria Neos finished 9th and 11th overall in the rally, and 1st and 2nd in class at the hands of Karamjit Singh and Proton Cusco Rally Team mate Akira Bamba.

Better luck next time 🙂

Bien Hecho, PROTON!

Hola!  The team were in Spain recently, for the Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles in Spain.

Amidst stiff competition, our boys Giandomenico Basso and Pg Andersson rallied the Satria Neo Super 2000 to PROTON’s best finish yet this season at the Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés in Spain. They secured PROTON’s first championship points in this round of the IRC which took place from 15th – 16th April 2011.

A little about the rally first. The rally attracted the participation of 35 drivers competing in the IRC category, with Peugeot represented with the largest contingent of super 2000 cars, fielding six 207 S2000 followed by Skoda with five Fabia S2000 cars.

Now moving to the action, Basso’s spirited drive to ninth place earned him two points in the driver’s championship, and 16 points for PROTON in the manufacturer’s championship. PROTON was the best of Asian manufacturer in Spain, finishing ahead of Suzuki, Honda and Subaru, and finished ahead of European manufacturers Citroen, Renault and Ford.

PG Andersson meanwhile, completed the rally in 16th after losing a lot of ground on day one of the rally due to two punctures. Andersson stopped to change a first puncture but with the absence of a second spare tyre, was forced to tackle special stage six with another slow puncture. That dropped him to drop to19th overall, losing more than six minutes but the Swedish driver fought back hard on the second and final day to reduce the deficit and settled for 16th.

The results in Spain also places PROTON fourth in the IRC championship point standings after two rounds behind leaders Skoda and Peugeot, and just two points adrift of Subaru currently in third place.

The top eight places in Spain were dominated by Skoda and Peugeot, with defending IRC champion Juho Hanninen rallying to victory ahead of Skoda team mate Jan Kopecky. Finishing third was Thierry Neuville in the Peugeot 207 S2000.

Basso was 49 seconds behind Bruno Magalhaes who finished eighth in another Peugeot 207 S2000, and 48 seconds ahead of former World Rally Championship driver Toni Gardemeister in a fifth Skoda Fabia S2000 to make up the top 10 fastest drivers.

Well done boys. It’s a positive result and a good start and we look forward to more positive performances in the future.

Malaysian Rally: Day 1 Recap

Hola! How’s the weekend going? Relaxing, we hope.

So day 1 of the Malaysian Rally went well for the team yesterday, with the two Neos showing a good performance on a competitive opening day which saw the top six registered competitors separated by a difference of only one second.

Alister completed the 2.5km super special stage for spectators at the Angsana Shoping Complex in a time of 2 mins and 0.25 seconds to secure a second place finish, 0.4 seconds short of current rally leader Rifat Sungkar in a Mitsubishi Evolution X. Chris ended up in the top five to deny an all-Mitsubishi front row.

Alister’s result also places him second in the Asia Cup category.

As for the PROTON Cusco Rally Team 1600cc Satria Neos, they managed an inspiring debut, with Akira Bamba finishing at 11th place, 20 seconds behind top APRC contenders, but leading the APRC Junior Cup category ahead of team mate Kosuke Takashino.

Tis’ a strong start for PROTON indeed with the four Neos occupying the top positions in their classes. It goes to show that the Neo is back with a mission, newly-charged and competitive as ever.

On another note, if you didn’t already know, of the total 35 entries in the Malaysian rally, 18 cars are Protons, with 12 cars competing for APRC points. That’s pretty cool, seeing so many of our cars out there. If you happen to be in JB go check out the buzz at the Malaysian Rally. Also, there’s a PROTON display of its current models at the Aeon Tebrau City Shopping Centre now till Sunday, 3rd April. That’s tomorrow, folks so come visit us soon there 🙂

Day 2 takes place today, and involves seven special stages, with another seven special stages being run on the third and final day. The real test of the rally starts right now at the Tai Tak estate with a long 32.3km stage at 9.23am. All the best to our drivers, we’re hoping for a great performance today.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for the latest results and updates. Catch you later.

Lucky fans with Chris and Alister at Aeon Tebrau City Shopping Centre. Catch Proton's display of it's current models there till Sunday, 3rd April.

PROTON Motorsports@Kuala Lumpur Rally Day 2011

We were at the Kuala Lumpur Rally Day recently, held to promote interest in rally and as a promotional gig for the upcoming Malaysian Rally. The convoy began at Section 13 in Petaling Jaya and headed for the Golden Triangle, passing the routes of Jalan Ampang, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Raja Chulan, Jalan Telawi and Jalan Gelenggang.

The Pennzoil GSR and MRU Motorsports rally teams were among the other teams participating in the event, and they brought out their cars in full force, including the Subaru Impreza WRX, Peugeot 206, and of course we brought our attention grabbing superstars – the Proton Satria Neo 1.6 and Proton Satria Neo S2000. A big shoutout to all our fans who came to support us, THANK YOU!

Check out some fab pictures of our fans below:

Last year, we didn’t win the Malaysian round, but the team didn’t go unnoticed. They set a very good pace and this year we’re hoping to make it to a podium finish. And we’re positive that it will happen.

Nine teams from around the region will be participating in the opening round of the APRC 2011, which forms part of the 2011 Malaysian Rally Championship. The Malaysian Rally is happening at the Plaza Angsana Johor Baru and Tai Tak Estate in Kota Tinggi from 1-4 April 2011.

Coming up really soon, so stay tuned. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Meet the PROTON R3 Satria Neo

There’s a new kid in town! Engineered for more spirited and dynamic driving enjoyment, we recently introduced the exclusive Proton R3 Satria Neo hot hatch.

Built by the talented folks at our Motorsports Division under the Race, Rally, Research (R3) brand name, the car is distinctively recognizable by its striking Fire Red exterior with a black painted roof.

Running the tried and tested 1600cc CAMPRO CPS engine, R3 engineers have upgraded its performance with the addition of Stage 2 performance upgrades inviting car enthusiasts to experience a greater dose of excitement. This increases power from the standard 125 bhp and 150 Nm of torque to 145 bhp at 7000 rpm and 168 Nm of torque at 5000 rpm coupled to a close ratio 5-speed manual transmission.

The R3 Satria Neo is an extension of PROTON’s involvement and experience in motor racing, and caters to a demanding segment of customers and enthusiasts who desire vehicles that are purpose-built for performance as much as it is practical for everyday usage.

The R3 Satria Neo’s promises an exhilarating drive. It’s features include an all-round CPS bodykit; an R3 designed rear roof spoiler; a front lip for improved down force; titanium coloured side strips; and a more muscular stance the result of a 10 mm drop in ride height. R3 engineers also made significant enhancements to ride and handling, with the use of specially-designed R3 performance springs for reduced body roll; recalibrated alignment, toe and camber settings for more grip and steering precision; and R3 edition 16” inch gunmetal lightweight alloys wrapped in softer compound Bridgestone Potenza RE001R 205/45 series profile tyres for better traction.

Inside, the R3 Satria Neo features a sporty, yet classy and alluring matte red and black two-tone interior. R3 limited edition front bucket seats wrapped in nappa leather with ‘Trivel’ finish, carbon effect PVC and red stitching replaces the standard seats. Its fiery personality is also accentuated by the use of matte red dashboard trims, gear console and handbrake handle; two-tone door trims; R3 floor carpets, an engine start button; aluminium foot pedals and gear knob.

Safety features built into the car include high performance brake pads capable of withstanding high-temperatures of up to 400 degree Celsius for increased fade resistance often associated with constant heavy braking; dual front airbags, and anti-lock braking system (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD). The car also comes fitted with Ecotint solar and security protection, and a 2-DIN audio head unit with 3D GPS navigation.

The R3 Satria Neo is priced at RM79,797 on-the-road inclusive of road tax and insurance, and can be viewed at Proton Edar’s Crystal showroom at the Proton Centre of Excellence, Shah Alam and any of the three Platinum showrooms located at  Mutiara Damansara, Juru and Plentong. Bookings can be made immediately at any of Proton Edar’s 23 sales branches throughout Peninsular Malaysia with a fee of RM2,000 and purchasers can expect the car delivered to them within four weeks of obtaining loan approval.

For more information, visit your nearest PROTON showroom today, call PROTON i-care at 1-300-880-888 or log on to http://www.r3.proton.com.

PROTON Motorsports Fan Fare : My Monte Carlo Trip (Part 1)

Hello everyone! Remember our PROTON Motorsports fan who won the Rallye to Monte Carlo online game? The one we all envied for winning himself an all expense paid trip for two to watch the Rally in Monte Carlo. Yes, that’s our lucky guy, Mohd Akram Zaki. If you don’t you can read all about it here and here.

In this two part posting, you’ll be able to 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.

Here’s the first installment of Zaki’s story. Enjoy!

My Monte Carlo Trip – by Mohd Akram Zaki

Fr left to right: Chris, Akram, Zaki and PG

10th of January 2011 – I received a call from PROTON’s Digital Marketing division, telling me that I won the Rallye to Monte-Carlo competition! I was in utter shock and had to calm myself down. From that moment on, my friends kept saying that my face was a reflection of excitement and happiness. It was indeed! I couldn’t sleep for an entire week just thinking about the rally that I was about to witness very soon. And in Monte Carlo! I was going to Monte Carlo!!

It all truly sunk in when I went to the PROTON Centre of Excellence for  a briefing before the trip.I met the PROTON Motorsports team and after a short briefing headed home full of anticipation of the coming week.

17th January 2011 – The day was finally here. I headed to KLIA with my friend,  Nik Mohd Azhar whom I chose to accompany me to Monaco. The whole flight took about 18 hours including a 4 hour transit in Dubai. We arrived at Cote D’azure airport in Nice, France at 1pm. We joined the group; that now included  members of the media as well. We met our drivers for the whole week, Ryan, Nick and Justin. Off we headed to our hotel in Valence, located about 400km from Nice. It took about 4 hours to get there. After dinner, we headed to our rooms to retire for the night and get some much needed rest.

18th January 2011 – We were taken to  a go-kart track somewhere between the town of Valence and our hotel to watch the rally cars at shakedown. I had no idea of the next surprise that was in store for Nik and me. The entire PROTON rally team were there when we arrived. I met Chris Mellors, team principal. He works together with Zuber Ismail, who manages the  teams affairs. I also met Chris Atkinson and Per-Gunnar Anderson, both of them well respected rally drivers, with Chris who used to drive for Subaru and PG winning JWRC titles previously. As I was taking pictures with them and the cars, one of the mechanics told me to get inside the car as I would soon be taken on  a taxi ride with PG behind the wheels. I was overjoyed with excitement and grateful at the same time as my wish had finally come true: to experience being in  the PROTON rally car. I had been wishing for it since the day found out I had won the competition.

It doesn’t get any better than this. Inside a fully prepared rally car, complete with roll cage etc, with one of the best rally drivers in the world. I just sat in the co-driver seat and took in all the sensations that I was experiencing. The acceleration, the cornering force, the sound of the car, the blurry vision, everything that I could absorb.. PG is a wonderful driver. He can drive the car at an incredible speed on a small track. The Neo performed amazingly and I loved it. I will remember this experience  for the rest of my life! Nik’s turn came next and I was positive he felt the same as I did. After the session the team headed back to the service park and we participated in a few rounds of kart racing. It was certainly a fun and enjoyable experience, driving in the cold winter even though my joints ached a little afterwards, but it was worth it!

Then we went to the service park where we joined the rest of the team at the team camp and I was greeted with the sight of the cars being maintained and it was interesting to see the team mechanics at their job checking to see if there were any defects on the car. I tried my best not to bother them but at the same time tried to get as close as possible to observe what they were doing. After lunch I explored the service park and got to see all the teams preparing their cars for the rally. It was very delightful to see lots of rally fans coming to see their favourite cars and teams. THe fans really took interest in our PROTON car as we are the only team using the bright yellow PROTON Satria Neo. Without a doubt the Neo was the most beautiful car there. I helped the team give out freebies to the visitors and introduce them to PROTON.

We stayed on till late evening to attend the official IRC drivers introduction event and applause our drivers and the team. Then we headed back to our hotel in the outskirts of Valence to have dinner and call it a day….we were so excited that day 1 of the rally would begin tomorrow….

Stay tuned for more of Zaki’s adventures in Monte Carlo…when Part 2 of his story is published next week.

PROTON Motorsports Group N Rally Cars in Japan

Hello everyone, we’re back after the break. Hope everyone’s Chinese New Year celebrations were a blast. So what’s been happening with PROTON Motorsports lately? Quite a bit, apart from the recent Monte Carlo rally. We recently signed a deal with renowned Japanese parts manufacturer Carroser Co. Ltd.(CUSCO), who purchased the Satria Neo cars to be sold as rally cars in Japan. That’s the first time ever a PROTON car will go on sale in Japan. The technical collaboration came about as a result from the performance and potential of the Satria Neo S2000 rally car at the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC).

The car was unveiled recently at the Tokyo Auto Salon show that took place on 14 – 16 January 2011.  The CUSCO engineered Group N Proton Satria Neo rally car will be sold to competitors who will be competing in the Junior Rally Championships in Japan and Asia Pacific.

The Group N Proton Satria Neo rally cars will be based on stock standard road-registered 1600cc showroom models acquired by CUSCO, homologated according to FIA regulations for competition use, and retrofitted with CUSCO-developed aftermarket performance and race components.

CUSCO is famous for producing top-of-the-line aftermarket performance parts for both the Japanese and international tuning markets. They’re also the only independent firm in Japan to compete in all categories of the ALL-Japan Championships: track racing, rallying, dirt trials and gymkhana.

At the same Tokyo Auto Salon, a concept Proton R3 Satria Neo went on display. The concept car is a sporty three-door hatchback that features R3’s distinct body styling, enhanced engine performance, braking, handling and an upgraded interior. A feast for the eyes indeed for Japanese car enthusiasts and visitors to the show from around the globe.

Proton Satria Neo concept car@Tokyo Auto Salon 2011

The Tokyo Auto Salon happens to be the world’s largest auto exhibition showcasing more than 600 vehicles and 300 companies involving after-market parts manufacturers, tuners, custom shops, car manufacturers, automotive businesses, associations and automotive vocational schools.

Group N rally cars in Shakedown action!

Soon after that the Group N rally cars participated in a shakedown event held with the Japanese media, dealers and potential owners of the Neo at the Maruwa Autoland Nasu in Togichi. Members present experienced the thrill and adrenalin of being in the rally car during shakedown, in the co-driver’s seat. Professional Japanese drivers from various racing backgrounds were also present to test drive  and share their experience with the Group N Rally car, Neo Standard & Neo Concept.

In the event, the Neo went though two days of testing over a distance of 250km on gravel roads without any mechanical issues. Overall the drivers rated the car as having very good handling and balance when driven at high speed.  Also at the event, a Mazda 2 rally car was brought in to be pitched against our Neo.  The Proton car beat the Mazda, clocking in a time of 1 min and 19 seconds, ahead of the Mazda by 6 seconds over a 1km stage. This clearly demonstrated the Neo’s capability when pitched against other reputed manufacturers. Pretty cool!

So what’s next? PROTON and CUSCO will be participating in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship 2011 under the Junior Trophy category. The category will be introduced for the first time this year in the APRC, to increase opportunities for young talented drivers within the region. The event is only open to drivers born on or after 1 January 1982. Junior Group N driver, Bamba San, is expected to participate in this event, with a selected Malaysian rally driver. The event will involve four qualifying rounds that will take place in Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan.

Check out our official Facebook page here for videos of the shakedown under the videos section.

The Satria Neo Group N Rally cars will also be available for sale in Malaysia. For further enquiries on specifications and pricing, contact us via email at motorsports@proton.com.