Drivers Giandomenico Basso and Per Gunnar Andersson will lead PROTON’s return to the World Rally Championship this Wednesday when the Malaysian manufacturer competes at the Monte Carlo Rally for the opening round of the 2012 FIA Super World Rally Championship (S-WRC).
PROTON’s participation in the S-WRC comes 10 years after it first won the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship in 2002. Last year, the Malaysian manufacturer was crowned champion in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). It will also be PROTON’s second visit to the Monte Carlo Rally after making its debut last year on the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) which is run on a similar but shorter route.
The S-WRC is a companion series to the World Rally Championship and is driven on the same special stages. It is limited to production-based cars homologated under the Super 2000 rules and was first introduced in 2010. The S-WRC also splits the Production World Rally Championship (P-WRC), which was previously open to both Super 2000 and Group N4 cars, into two separate competitions.
“We’ve come a long way in our S2000 rally programme since it started in 2009, and to be part of the S-WRC and the 2012 World Rally Championship is incredibly rewarding for what has been both a challenging and successful journey for PROTON on the international rally arena,” said Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood, Head of PROTON Motorsports.
“We start the Monte Carlo Rally and the 2012 S-WRC season with what is a winning car, having clinched last year’s APRC title, and given the positive results we have achieved in testing throughout the winter break, we look forward to a strong and competitive season ahead.”
PROTON will compete in five of the seven S-WRC rounds in 2012.
“At PROTON, we are firmly committed to be better whether it is in the manufacturing of our vehicles, caring for our customers, or excelling in motorsports. Our participation in this year’s S-WRC is a manifestation of this commitment having competed in the APRC and IRC over the course of the last two years. Rally Motorsports offers a unique and dynamic showcase for PROTON’s brand, products and technology which can also be leveraged by PROTON for global branding, marketing purposes and the re-ignition of R3,” said John Chacko, PROTON Director of Group Marketing, Branding and Motorsports.
The Monte Carlo Rally will be run over 18 special stages totalling 430km of competitive distance in temperatures as low as 5 degrees. This year’s rally also marks the return of the World Rally Championship to Monte Carlo after a three-year absence.
The 80th edition of the Monte-Carlo Rally kicks off in the French city of Valence with two stages to be run twice before heading to the mountainous Ardeche, Haut Loire and Drôme regions, and eventually finishing in Monaco.
“We have completed a lot of development to the 2012 Satria Neo S2000, particularly with the engine where we now have more torque. The most important is that I feel good driving the car and I believe it will be very good start to the season for us. I am pretty sure we have a winning car this year,” said Andersson who joins PROTON’s S-WRC campaign after a full season with the Malaysian manufacturer in the 2011 IRC.
“At the Monte Carlo Rally, you can never be fully prepared for what can happen. It is always unpredictable and is common for drivers to rush into making mistakes. The crew also play an important role in ensuring we select the right tyres for the rally. If we have a rally without major problems, I think we will be in the running for a good finish.”
words & pix: PROTON