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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.

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Malaysian Rally : Day 2 & still kicking!

Beautiful jump by Chris

Great results today! Though it was a treacherous day for the team as Day 2 proved to be tough and temperamental. With the weather being as hot as ever at 32 degrees celcius all week, in came a heavy downpour hours before the start of the rally’s seven special stages. So from dry to dusty, the team were faced with a muddy and slippery journey instead. And the terrain seemed unpredictable because of the change in weather and conditions.

Yet the team pushed through, Chris is current first overall and Alister comes in third. Great job, guys!

Chris and his Neo led from the start of special stage 2, with a four-second advantage over Alister at the end of the 32.30km charge at the Tai-Tak Plantation in Kota Tinggi. By the following 24.49km special stage 3, Chris’ lead had grown to 37.8 seconds ahead of MRF’s Gaurav Gill in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, while Alister was forced to reduce his pace to contain an overheating problem. The problem, which cost him more than four minutes, was later resolved and was found to be caused by debris and vegetation blocking the air path to the radiator through the front bumper grille.

Leaving nothing to chance, the team service crew had replaced a slightly worn right rear driveshaft on Chris’s Neo within nine minutes at the first service interval. Rejoining the rally after the first service interval, Chris stretched his lead to 1 minute 17.4 seconds in special stage 5 which was a repeat run of the 32.30km Tai-Tak special stage. He gained another three seconds in special stage 6, 24 seconds in special stage 7, but conceded four seconds in the final’s day’s 2.5km super special stage to go into the third and final day of the rally with a 1 minute 40.4 seconds lead over Gaurav. Alister at third, and second in the Asia Cup category.

In terms of casualties, ex-APRC champion Cody Crocker fell short of luck after going off the road. Other casualties included Japanese driver Katsuhiko Taguchi, Pertamina Cusco Racing’s Rifat Sungkar and team mate Yuya Sumiyama, former British rally champion Mark Higgins and Malaysian driver Saladin Mazlan – all behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Well known Karamjit Singh in his Lancer Evo 9 also fell out due to a mechanical problem.

All in all Day 2 eliminated seven of the top seeded drivers.

Our pretty boys at team PROTON Cusco Rally Team in the 1600cc Satria Neo also enjoyed a good run today, with Akira Bamba running high in eighth overall as the fastest 1600cc two-wheel drive entry, leading the APRC Junior Cup category. Team mate Kosuke Takashino meanwhile, is currently placed ninth overall.

Tomorrow is the the third and final day of the Malaysian Rally. The final day will be run over seven special stages totaling 79.80km.

With determination coupled with a solid drive and performance from the team, PROTON is aiming for a podium finish tomorrow and we’re positive the team will make it. 🙂

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 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 Rallye of Monte Carlo – Over too soon for the team

By now you may have heard the news – for those who have not, well luck was just not on our side this time around. The team has retired from the Rallye of Monte Carlo on the first day after a seemingly promising start, with both Chris and PG eventually falling out from the race. Since super rally rules do not apply for this event, the team will not be able to continue on day 2. They are disappointed for sure, but unfazed.

Chris stopped due to electrical problems at SS1 and the cause of the problem is still being investigated while PG had an accident.  PG was ranked 12th fastest on SS1 out of 36 S2000 cars; but then unfortunately met with a minor accident at SS2 that forced him to retire from the rally. 15 other cars retired at this stage as well.

120 cars are contesting in the Rallye Monte Carlo, and we wish the rest of the drivers the best of luck. For updates and news on the other contestants of the IRC Rallye of Monte Carlo, click here.

It takes determination and skill to navigate the Col De Turini, at top speed and in challenging conditions. Well done to the team for their efforts. Remember that each time you fail, you move one step closer to succeeding. There’s still a long journey to go this season and it’s only just the beginning.

Quotes
Chris Atkinson said:

“When I woke up this morning, I was really looking forward to driving the car. There’s nothing like the feeling of driving one of these rally cars as fast as you can down a stage, it’s awesome and it’s why we do what we do. And everything was cool from the start, no dramas, warmed the tyres up, off the line, everything was good, then nothing. We were less than a kilometre in and the car stopped. The engine had cut and there was nothing, no electrics at all. We couldn’t start the car. I tried to fix it, but there was nothing we could do. The team have looked at the data now and the problem was caused by a voltage surge which blew the control box. This has never happened to us before in testing or anything, it’s an absolute mystery – but when things don’t go your way, they really don’t go your way. The frustration is that we had the engine working really well in the test, it was great. The performance is definitely coming. It’s actually a really unusual feeling on the event, this was the first time I’ve retired on the first stage of an event and been completely out of the rally. I’m not a huge fan of superally [the regulation permitting crews to re-enter events on the following day], but I really would have been today. It just seems such a waste that we’ve now got two perfect rally cars sitting here doing nothing; the fans would love to have seen the cars on the stages tomorrow and P-G and I would love to have been driving them.”

P-G Andersson said:

“The first stage was good, no problems. I wasn’t pushing too hard, it was the first stage and we wanted to settle down. About five kilometres into the second stage, there was a double right-hander into a left, the car slid a little wide. I saw a ditch coming, there were some leaves in the ditch, but I thought it would be okay. It wasn’t, there was a big stone hiding under the leaves; we hit the stone and broke the front-left wheel rim, which caused us to have a puncture. Three kilometres later, while we were braking for a hairpin, one of the arm’s broke on the car and the wheel turned out. That was it, there was nothing we could do. We had to stop. I tried to fix it, but it was very doubtful that we would have got the car to service after the next stage. It’s really disappointing that this is the result of our debut with PROTON. Clearly, the car has good potential and it would have been fantastic to take a result for the team on my first time in the Satria, but it hasn’t gone that way. The new engine was good, we were getting more power lower down in the rev range, it was easier to drive than before. It’s just so frustrating that we don’t have superally to go out and do some more driving in the car, it would have been very useful to get some testing mileage done.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:

“The whole team is feeling the frustration from what has happened today, that goes without saying. We were all really upbeat coming into Monte Carlo, we’d done four days’ testing in the Alps and another three back in the UK – and we hadn’t put a spanner on the car. And today we have one car out with a simple accident, if you can call it an accident, and one car out with a freak electrical issue. I honestly wonder if there’s anything left for us to see, it’s just incredible. It’s a real shame for Chris [Atkinson], he’s gone out very early, but P-G [Andersson] took a sensible approach and came out of SS1 in 11th, I’m confident we would have been well inside the top 10 if it hadn’t been for his problems. We came here with a revised specification of engine and that worked well, the drivers were pleased with the way it was working – delivering the torque lower down in the rev range. We’ve taken some steps and we have seen the benefits from those steps, that’s one of the good things we take from here. Despite what has happened, there’s still a huge positivity around the team, we all know what PROTON Motorsports and this car is capable of. We’re unlocking the potential, there’s more to come.”

*****

On a brighter note, lucky grand prize winner Mohd Akram Zaki who won himself a trip for two to the rally in the Rallye of Monte Carlo online game, was given a ride of his life in Monaco. Akram and his friend, Nik Mohd Azhar were taken on a taxi ride in the Satria Neo S2000 rally cars by the drivers during shakedown a day before the rally began. Check out what Akram has to say here (It’s short, but its sweet!).

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

Congratulations once again Akram, we hope you had a wonderful time! And to the rest of our fans, stay tuned for more exciting news from us in the future.

Leaving you for now with more pictures below. Have a great weekend, people!

Neo in action @Rallye Monte Carlo

@the service park

Contest winner gets a ride of his life~

Team shot. Akram and Zaki are somewhere in there as well 🙂

Proton Motorsports@Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show 2010

It’s time for the Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show 2010 (KLIMS) and it will be the first public display of the latest PROTON models and concept cars, the world’s newest generation and recently unveiled Lotus sports cars, the EMAS concept hybrid car and a live styling studio from 3rd December to 12th December 2010.

For fellow Rally fans out there, it is an opportunity for you to catch the race-winning Satria Neo S2000 throughout the motor show period at the PROTON booth’s motorsports section. This is the mean machine that strides through mud, gravel, tarmac and asphalt during the 2010 APRC and IRC.

The PROTON R3 Malaysia Rally Team drivers – Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson will be making special appearances from 3rd December to 5th December. Come say hello to Alister and Chris will ya?

As for R3 (Race.Rally.Research), which is part of PROTON Motorsports – well, we have something exciting in store for you. Stay tuned for more updates!

For more information on KLIMS and entry tickets, please visit their official website here.

Rally of China: This is what the journey is all about


We won, guys! After all the hard work, and well deserved too. PROTON takes first and second placing at the APRC 2010 and also second and third placing for the Asia Cup. Overall the team came out second for the Manufacturer’s Championship. PROTON is now ahead of Subaru and behind Mitsubishi in the APRC Manufacturers Title.

Indeed, as quoted by one of our fans, the team saved the best for last!

Alister McRae took the podium at first and Chris Atkinson at second for the APRC while Alister takes second and Chris third at the podium for the Asia Cup. Alister is currently also at third placing for the APRC Driver’s Title.

An excellent outcome for PROTON’s first full season competing in the championship what with all the bad luck we’ve had this season; and finally emerging victorious.

Alister and Bill

Chris and Ben

A recap of the China Rally, Leg 1 of the China Rally covered a total of nine special stages over 146km. After a short 1.82km super special stage for spectators on Friday, the rally continued on Saturday with eight special stages run through the mountainous region and bamboo forests just outside of Longyou city which combined both gravel and tarmac stages.

Leading the rally on Day 1, Alister was forced to concede his position for second place in the penultimate 25.53km special stage – the longest in the rally – after his Satria NEO S2000 suffered a puncture. Chris endured two punctures on the same stage which was repeated three times throughout the day to settle for third.

Leg 2 of the China Rally took place over six difficult, long and rough special stages covering a combined distance of 83.7km.The highlight of the third and final day was a grueling 16.35km charge over the rocky mountainous region of San Men Yuan dubbed by rally drivers as the stage with a hundred hairpin turns. It also included high-speed charge along a newly-introduced 12.27km all-tarmac special stage which was repeated twice throughout the day.

On Day 2 and restarting the rally almost two minutes down on Cusco Racing’s Hiroshi Yanagisawa and in second position, Alister wasted no time piling on the pressure to set the fastest stage time of 18 minutes 40.1 seconds in the 16.35km special stage 10. Halfway through the narrow and rough ascent, both Chris and Alister passed Yanagisawa’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X that was forced into retirement with mechanical problems. The day ended on a happy note for both drivers when they secured the podium finishes.

Alister’s comments below aptly summarizes the whole season of PROTON’s participation in rallying:

“This is definitely a great result for both PROTON and us. I’ve said it all year long that the Proton Satria Neo S2000 is capable of winning rallies and being on the podium but we have just experienced so much of bad luck throughout the season…To finally prove it in this rally with a one-two finish is just fantastic.”

We are happy for the team and a big round of congratulations to all who made this happen with the blood, sweat and tears. They never gave up.

A special shout out to all our fans from all over the world, who have loyally stood by us and had faith that PROTON would make it! We’ve come a long way in our journey and will continue to strive for excellence.

There are loads of videos and albums of the Rally of China 2010 so do visit our Facebook page here.

Rally of China : There are no Panda Bears in Longyou


Image courtesy of Google Images

Darn it… was hoping that we could smuggle one of those cute little fellows home… 🙂

Today is the day before the Rally of China. As you may have read, we blogged a preview on the rally here.

So what will be happening in the next few days? As we write this, shakedown is already over. More updates and pictures later as we progress through the event.

This year’s rally will be run over 15 special stages with a combined distance of 229.99km over two days. The rally begins with a 1.82km super special stage for the benefit of spectators after the ceremonial start before proceeding to Leg 1 the following day which will consist of 8 special stages. The third and final day will see competitors battling another 6 special stages.

Stage 1 of the Rally begins at 230pm (China time) tomorrow.

The weather is currently dry, but cool with a lot of haze. It seems that the forecast is that the current conditions will continue throughout the rally period.

We know that currently the stages are in good condition. There is a high percentage of concrete roads that may be slippery at the first pass, as there is a fine dust and sometimes gravel on top so it will be challenging. And an interesting watch.

And so ladies and gents, the stage is all set for the battle. Our drivers are all geared to go. McRae and Hayes, and the brothers Atkinson must be very excited and hopeful as season 2010 ends and so are we as we all pray hard that they do well and claim a podium finish.

We will be back tomorrow. Till then, zài jiàn (that’s goodbye in Mandarin)… 🙂

3 teams retired at Day 1 of the Malaysian Rally Championship

Here’s the official list of retired teams from the Malaysian Rally Championship on day 1 of the race.

Stage 7 & 8 of the FIA Asia-Pacific Championship (Malaysian Rally) – Partial Results (Updated)

Stage 7 & 8  done, with day 1 of the rally coming to an end. The competition is stiff with McRae, Taguchi, Atkinson and Gill pushing the limits in each stage of the race, putting them in the top 4 spots in each stage.

McRae from the Proton R3 Malaysia Rally Team leads the pack with a total time of 2:04:16.9 while Taguchi from MRF Tyres chasing for the top spot at 2:04:44.1. Gill from MRF Tyres is a minute and 26 secs behind his team mate at 2:05:43.1

Atkinson from the Proton R3 Malaysian Rally Team is at the 4th spot in the overall position now, making a quick leap from Stage 1 of the race when he suffered from electrical failures after a jump. With a total time of 2:22.42.2, he is 18 minutes behind Gill.

Here’s the partial results for stage 7 & 8 race at the Tai Tak Estate:

Result Stage 7 - Tai Tak Pipeline

Result Stage 7 - Tai Tak Pipeline

Result Stage 8 - Tai Tak Fish Pond

Result Stage 8 - Tai Tak Fish Pond

 

With only 6 teams in the Stage 8 results, it makes us wonder if any other teams have retired from the race. Missing in the list are:

Yuya Sumiyama & Naoki Kase – Cusco Racing
Tomohide Hasegawa & Nobuyoshi Hara – Hasepro World Rally Team
Karamjit Singh & Jagdev Singh – GSR Penzoil Racing Team – Officially retired
Hiroshi Yanagisawa & Yoshimasa Nakahara – Cusco Racing – Officially retired

We are waiting for the official release to be out and will update everyone once we have it.