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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.

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PROTON kickstarts 2011 campaign & the rallying begins!

Early this week, the official launch of PROTON’s 2011 rally campaign took place and the event was officiated by Deputy Minister of Tourism Yang Berhormat Dato’ Dr. James Dawos Mamit. At the launch, the Deputy Minister handed the symbolic ‘Jalur Gemilang’ (Malaysian flag) to the team. And with that, the PROTON R3 Malaysia Rally team will begin their new season of rallying for this year.

Malaysian Deputy Minister of Tourism hands the Malaysian Flag to PROTON Managing Director, Dato' Seri Syed Zainal

 

The PROTON R3 Malaysia Rally team & management

PROTON is looking to start the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) campaign on a high note with a strong finish at the season-opener Rally of Malaysia which begins this weekend. And the two S2000 cars will be driven by Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson.

If you remember last year’s Malaysian rally, we had the same drivers with us, both also being former World Rally Championship (WRC) drivers.

They were with PROTON throughout the 2010 season, with the team finishing second place in the APRC Manufacturer’s Championship and best finish being a 1-2 victory in the APRC category at the China Rally.

As most of our diehard fans are already aware, the Satria Neo Super 2000 rally car had benefitted from an entire year devoted to testing and development; allowing the team to gain tremendous improvements in terms of power, performance and reliability. Now all that’s left is to prove that our yellow superstar is also a championship-winning contender.

The Malaysian rally is known as one of the most challenging and rough rallies on the APRC calendar but the team is positive of their performance this time around and hopes to have a strong finish. We have high hopes for them too this time around.

More exciting news, this season of APRC also brings in the entry of several Group N Satria Neo 1600cc rally cars. The cars have been jointly-developed by PROTON and renowned Japanese tuner CUSCO, and are being sold to competitors in Japan taking part in both the APRC and Japanese Junior Rally Championship. Check out the pic below, simply lovely! We’re talking about the cars, of course ;p

PROTON Cusco Rally Team, Satria Neo 1.6 Group N rally car

Stick with us over the next few days, because updates from the Malaysian Rally 2011 will be posted throughout the event. Also do check out our Facebook page for up to date team performance and results and see exclusive photos of the Satria Neo S2000@the Malaysian rally and team in action both during the race and behind the scenes.

More pictures of the launch here. Later, gators!

The other side of rally

It’s not always about loud exhausts and screeching brakes at rallies. If you thought rally events were just about the rallying bit, well you’ve not quite grasped the enormity of the entire event.

At rallies, many other events take place. There are car shows and exhibitions, entertainment and charity events. At one of the previous rallies, the organizers even brought in little ponies for rides, had dogs and roosters (yes, roosters!) on show and life size cartoon characters were running all around the grounds of the service park! I suppose these were added attractions to the actual event itself, that lent to the overall festive mood of the service park and surrounding areas. At the recent Australian rally, there was even a special cocktail created in honour of our S2000 – how flattering!

The S2000 cocktail @Rally Queensland

Life sized cartoon character at the closing ceremony of Rally Hokkaido

Ponies on display at the service park – Rally Hokkaido

Then there are the fans, the wonderful supportive fans. They who come from far and near to catch the cars and drivers in action, some going home with autographs and other merchandise the team may have given them, others just happy to have had a glimpse of their favourite teams, cars and drivers. Some fans even go as far as making their own merchandise! And may I add, the team at PROTON simply love their fans to bits!

Fans gathered at the PROTON service tent in Hokkaido

And finally rally events don’t forget the needy. And the team is ever ready to support any good cause. While at the Rally of Queensland recently, PROTON took the opportunity to contribute to a good cause by participating in a charity auction. The auction was organized by Variety Queensland, an Australian based worldwide charity for children. Shirts were signed by the PROTON R3 Malaysia Rally team’s ace drivers Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson and put up for auction to raise funds for the charitable organization.  We hope they manage to raise a significant amount for the cause they believe in.

Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson signing T-shirts to be auctioned for charity at Rally Queensland

So you see, it’s not always just about men and women in crazily fast cars…:)

“Spot the Difference” Online Contest

Happy Thursday, everyone! We’ve got an easy peasy contest lined up for our fans over here at the PROTON Motorsports blog. Titled “Spot The Difference” online contest, all you have to do is spot the differences in the images provided below and answer two easy questions.

The first five (5) readers with a sharp eye who are able to spot the differences between the two PROTON Satria Neo S2000 Rally car images will stand a chance to win exclusive autographed items by the PROTON Satria Neo S2000 R3 Malaysia Rally Team drivers themselves. Everyday for the next three days, the first five (5) readers will be able to participate in this contest and win those prizes. Cool, eh.

So what do you need to do exactly?

Answer this question:

1. What is the name of the first driver of the PROTON R3 MALAYSIA RALLY TEAM?

* He has been involved in motorsports for the past 16 years, participating in more than 80 WRC events which is not surprising as he comes from a family of rally drivers, father Jimmy and late brother World Rally Champion Colin.

a) Stephane Prevot

b) Bill Hayes

c) Alister McRae

d) Chris Atkinson

Then spot the differences between the two images below and answer the question that follows:

Spot the objects that do not belong on the PROTON S2000 Rally Car:

a) The PROTON logo shield

b) The thunder bolt

c) The R3 logo

d) The star

So how do you submit your entries? Just post your answers in the comments box below.  Don’t forget to leave us your email address so we can contact you.

And of course, as with everything in life, there are rules to follow. So let’s go through some basic rules and regulations shall we?

“SPOT THE DIFFERENCE” Online Contest Rules & Regulations

  1. The “SPOT THE DIFFERENCE” online contest (“Contest”) is organized by Group Marketing & Branding Division of PROTON Holdings Berhad (“PROTON”).
  2. The contest period is from 29th July 2010 to 31st July 2010 and open to anyone above 18 years of age except employees of PROTON Holdings Berhad and its Group of Companies (“PROTON”) and their immediate families, PROTON’s advertising agencies and appointed distributors.
  3. To stand a chance at winning the limited edition autographed items, the contestant has to:
    1. Be a member of the OFFICIAL PROTON SATRIA NEO SUPER 2000 fan page on Facebook
    2. Be one of the first 5 daily entries with the correct answers.
  4. All cost and expenses incurred by the participants under the Contest shall be borne by the participants themselves.
  5. The judges’ decision is final and no appeal whatsoever shall be entertained.
  6. Winners would be notified via email. If any winner does not respond within 3 days, the next quickest participant with the right answers shall be deemed the winner.
  7. The names of the daily winners will also be posted on this Blog, Facebook and Twitter.
  8. Prizes unclaimed after a period of one (1) month will be forfeited.
  9. PROTON and its agencies shall be entitled to use the winners’ names and/or photographs for the purposes of publicity, advertising and/or trade without any compensation or notice to the winners.

Copyright Info © 2010 Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Sdn Bhd

So hurry and participate now! Watch this space on Monday, 2nd August 2010 for the winner’s list and see if you made it on the list 😉

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.”

Ypres Rally:You win some, you lose some


Yesterday’s final day at Ypres Rally saw all three of our cars retire at SS4 due to engine problems and were unable to continue with the rally. The team has already begun investigations into the root cause of the problem.

Rally Ypres was won by Belgian Freddy Loix in the Skoda Fabia S2000 21 seconds ahead of Jan Kopecky. His rival Kris Meeke crashed out and after that it was victory all the way for Fast Freddy. Third placing went to Peugeot’s Thierry Neuville.

Our team didn’t quite make it today but they did a good job as always, putting in a lot of effort, hard work and skill. In the world of rallying, nothing is predictable. Rallies take place on all surfaces and in all sorts of conditions. We’ve said this before, anything can happen in ralllies. That’s what makes it such a unique and interesting sport.

And as usual it was indeed a proud moment to see our team and cars compete globally. PROTON has certainly journeyed far and we look forward to Rally New Zealand with renewed spirit.

Ypres Rally : Shakedown & Driver Quotes


The Shakedown that took place yesterday was situated about 20 km drive from Ypres at the small town of Nieuwkerke. From 7pm till 11pm, over 80 cars ran the 4.88km stage. Thousands of spectators swamped the town and the surrounding countryside to catch a first glimpse of the cars in action.

My colleagues who are there at the rally tell me that there are many families with children amongst the group of spectators. That is so cool, reminds me of the amazing fans of Rally Hokkaido. Overall the spectator turnout at Ypres is great.

The team tested from 7pm till 11pm. It only began to get dark at 1030pm, and the team then fixed on the spotlights for a test before today’s rally that will run late into the night.

Will be back with more recaps.

In the meantime, we leave you with some quotes from our drivers:

Chris Atkinson:


“All’s going well and the car is working good.”

On his thoughts about today’s rally – “Realistically, it will definitely be a big challenge with extremely strong opposition, but we will go out and give our best”.

Alister McRae:

“This is one of the all time great rallies of Europe, and it’s really exciting for PROTON and myself to be here. It will be a tough rally with 24 other Super 2000 cars running on some very tricky stages. Looking forward to the weekend stages and we will see how it goes.”

Tom Cave:

“The car is good and I’m happy with how its running. We managed to try some changes to the setup on the car today which has helped me decide on the final setup I’ll be running for the rally.”

There are many more interesting pictures on our Official Facebook Page of the town, the service park, the drivers and the overall scene at Ypres Rally so be sure to check those out too. Goodnight for now!

The Proton R3 Malaysia Rally Team all set to go in Ypres

Hallo, Ypres! No, I’m not there this time around, but from what I hear it’s a beautiful place.

It’s interesting to note that Ypres was one of the main martyr towns of the First World War. A few months after the German invasion of Belgium on 4 August 1914 the front came to a standstill near the small, mediaeval town.

From October 1914 to October 1918 the battlefield was barely a few kilometres away from the centre. The trenches ran from north to south in an arc around Ypres. In this famous Ypres Salient no fewer than five bloody battles were fought.

Every evening (at 8 pm) since 1928, the Last Post has been sounded under the imposing memorial arches of the Menin Gate. The Last Post is the traditional salute to the fallen and is played in honour of the memory of the soldiers of the then British Empire, who fought and died in the ‘Immortal Ypres Salient’ between 1914 and 1918.

On to more rally talk… 🙂

The Ypres Rally is one of the longest standing rallies in Europe attracting huge numbers of spectators and enthusiastic participants. The rally is situated in the bustling and historic town of Ypres, famous for its typical architecture and impressive townsquare where the servicepark is located throughout all three days. The event is a compact asphalt rally full of new developments. The route is consisting mostly of twisty farming lanes, challenging to both cars and crews.

The service park is based at the historical Market Place of Ypres with the Rally HQ and Media Centre in Novotel leper Centrum. A Shakedown stage is located in Nieuwkerke.

The event will begin on Friday late afternoon 25th June at the Market Place of Ypres and continue with three special stages driven twice on Friday evening and another thirteen special stages driven on Saturday 26th June. The Podium Ceremony will be held on Saturday evening once the competitive section of the rally is finished.

Rally Ypres involves all-asphalt stages, full of long straights and square junctions. The demanding asphalt roads require maximum concentration from the drivers, with several traps and ditches. The weather is currently at 18 degrees and there may be a possibility of sudden downpours.

Team performance so far

Our team performed well at last weekend’s Rallye de la Haute Senne in Belgium, an event used as a test and warm-up to the Ypres Rally. Chris Atkinson came in second behind local driver Patrik Snijers. Young rally driver Tom Cave who is driving a PROTON Satria Neo Super2000 independently finished third overall on his tarmac debut in his Proton Satria Neo Super2000.

I managed to get a few words out of team principal Chris Mellors. “The PROTON  team is very excited at the prospect of starting the IRC campaign.  The competition will be very strong with 28 S2000 cars entered but PROTON hopes to be among the top runners and the performance at last week’s Rally Haute -Senne was a good test of the cars and drivers.” said Chris.

Certainly good news for all of us at PROTON. Here’s hoping to a good performance for our team in Ypres.

Stay tuned, folks!

Who’s who at Ypres Rally

Ypres rally is barely two weeks away so let’s take a look at the who’s who shall we.

First up, we know that IRC is known as the championship for Super 2000 cars and the Super2000 category is the most important category in the rally.

The lineup of drivers begin with Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky who will be in Ypres for Skoda as well as Guy Wilks(recovering from injury after Sardinia crash) who gets the backing of Skoda UK. Belgian “Fast” Freddy Loix and Bernd Casier, known to be very fast on Ypres roads. There’s also Didier Van Wijnsberghe, Dutch champion Mark Van Eldik and Antonin Tlusák and Pavel Odlozilik, both participants to the European Rally Championship.

Kris Meeke from Ireland will be behind the wheel of the Peugeot 207 Super2000. Kris Meeke was the winner of Ypres in 2009. WRC star Sebastien Ogier, the very fast Frenchman, Belgians Pieter Tsjoen and Patrick Snijers and Thierry Neiville are among the other big names in the rally scene. Other names include Peugeot’s Bruno Magalhaes of Portugal, Daniel Oliveira of Brasil, Corrado Fontana of Italy and Austrian Franz Wittman.

Andreas Mikkelson with an M-Sport Fiesta will be driving for Ford in Super2000. Michal Solowow and Maciej Oleksowicz from Poland will be driving their own Fiesta S2000. And then of course, there’s our very own superstars in our Proton Satria Neo S2000. The third Proton will be driven by British privateer, teen sensation, Tom Cave, whom we recently featured in this blog.

IRC start delayed till Ypres

This year, our team will delay the start of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge campaign until the Geko Ypres Rally after confirming it will skip next month’s Rally d’Italia-Sardegna.

PROTON will now begin its programme on the asphalt-based round in Belgium from 24-26 June instead.

Team principal Chris Mellors said: “We had looked at starting our IRC programme in Sardinia but we’ve decided to go for Ypres instead. If we’d gone to Sardinia it would have seriously restricted the amount of asphalt testing we’d have been able to do with the car before Belgium. We felt it made more sense to focus on preparing the cars and drivers for Ypres, which is undoubtedly one of the classic European events.”

Tom Cave, who had planned to drive a privately-run Satria Neo in Sardinia, has also elected to skip the gravel rally. The 18-year-old wants to get more experience of driving his Proton away from the rigours of a two-day IRC qualifier so will contest a national event in his native Wales instead.  (We will run 3 cars in Ypres, Belgium.  Tom Cave is an upcoming young driver, whose team has elected to buy a Proton s2000 and to rally it).