Commendable result & incredible exposure for Proton in San Remo Rally

Published on September 27th, 2010

Frenchman Gilles Panizzi drove the Satria Neo S2000 to a commendable debut on the prestigious and historical 52nd San Remo Rally in Italy, finishing 18th among the Super S2000 runners and 20th overall from a field of 101 competitors who started the two-day rally.

Downplaying his chances of a fourth victory at San Remo from the start of the rally, the three-time San Remo Rally driving for the Proton R3 Malaysia Rally Team for the first time, instead channeled a great deal of effort and experience into developing the Satria Neo S2000 into a more competitive package for the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC).

“The Satria Neo S2000 is a very well balanced car with plenty of potential to be unlocked which was what the team focused on and was able to gain from over the weekend,” said the 45-year-old tarmac rally specialist and former Peugeot and Mitsubishi World Rally Teams resident asphalt specialist.

While Panizzi took on the likes of established manufacturers Peugeot, Abarth, Skoda and Ford, teammate and former Production Car World Rally champion Niall McShea’s rally came to an abrupt end on the first day of rallying due to a seized power steering pump, a problem which has never been previously experienced by the team.

“Overall, PROTON’s outing in San Remo has been great. For an event that we did not plan to compete in much earlier and only decided on after the cancellation of the Rally of Indonesia, the result in San Remo and especially on tarmac was commendable. More importantly, it enabled the team to make tremendous gains in terms of further developing the Satria Neo S2000 given Panizzi’s vast experience and the pivotal role he previously played in helping to develop the Peugeot Super S2000 rally machine,” said PROTON Group Managing Director Dato’ Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir.

In terms of marketing and branding, Dato’ Syed Zainal Abidin said the San Remo round of the IRC provided PROTON with an excellent and cost effective platform to enhance brand awareness in line with the Malaysian manufacturer’s goal of going global.

“San Remo was a great opportunity to showcase the PROTON brand given the phenomenal atmosphere, the large number of entries, the thousands of spectators who lined the rally stages daily and the extensive international and local media coverage the event received. Panizzi’s stature as a San Remo legend meanwhile, resulted in an even bigger spotlight consistently being on PROTON with thousands of fans cheering him on and the international media focus on PROTON.”

Ten of the top 20 finishers at San Remo were behind the wheel of a Peugeot Super S2000 rally car with Italian Paolo Andrerucci in the Peugeot 207 Super S2000 winning the event. Four other top contenders piloted the Skoda Fabia Super S2000, another three were in the Abarth Grand Punto S2000, one in a Ford Fiesta Super S2000 and another in a Honda Type R. San Remo’s unpredictable weather had again proved to be challenging for all competitors, with conditions capable of changing abruptly from dry and sunny to being wet and slippery which placed tremendous pressure on tyre choices. From the 101 starters, a total of 40 cars retired from the rally.

“Considering we were in the company of more established manufacturers and bigger budget teams, plus the fact that our selective participation in the IRC this year is purely for development purposes, the Satria Neo S2000’s overall performance on asphalt certainly inspires plenty of confidence as we prepare for 2011,” Dato’ Syed Zainal Abidin said.

Propelling the PROTON brand globally via motorsports, Dato’ Syed Zainal added that the Satria Neo S2000’s performance and pace since it competed in the 2009 IRC season has successfully attracted enormous interest from spectators, competitors and the international media, in addition to drawing a large television audience worldwide with the events broadcasted in 59 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and America, reaching 240 million television viewers.

“Not only is the IRC beneficial to brand building for PROTON, but it also extends an excellent opportunity to promote Malaysia as a country and as a tourist destination,” Dato’ Syed Zainal Abidin said.

words & pix: Proton

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