PROTON returns to home soil for Round 4 of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) in search of a second successive victory in the Malaysian Rally in Johor this weekend.
Leading the charge for PROTON will be defending APRC champion Alister McRae who finished third in Malaysia last year, and team mate PG Andersson who will be making his debut in the Malaysian Rally.
In preparation for what is the most important event of the season, PROTON has homologated several new parts and arrives in Johor Bharu with what will be a Satria Neo S2000 running on evolved specifications in pursuit of a repeat of 2011’s dominant performance in which the team clinched a double podium victory before the home crowd.
The Satria Neo S2000 also arrives at the Malaysian Rally on the back of a crushing win in the recently-concluded Rally of Thailand where British driver Tom Cave had taken a 10-minute victory ahead of other competitors.
“This is always one of the toughest rounds of the championship and really nothing can prepare you completely for the conditions. The team has worked really hard on the car and we certainly felt a difference when we were competing [in the SWRC] in New Zealand. With the new parts in the car, it’s going to be even better,” said McRae.
The ability to get the Satria Neo S2000 in and out of tight corners quickly will be paramount to succeeding in Malaysia, and this is an area that the team engineers have been focusing on to further enhance, in the recent few months.
“We have new parts in the car for this event, we have done a lot of testing ahead of this homologation and there is definitely a good feeling in the car. The changes we have made will definitely give Satria Neo S2000 better traction in the corners,” said Andersson. “We have been doing a lot of training and drinking plenty of fluids. I have done some really hot rallies in the past, but coming from Sweden, the humidity is going to be something new and interesting,” he added.
With a distance of 235.28km, the Malaysian Rally comprises 15 special stages run on gravel and taking competitors through what is reputed to being one of the most grueling terrains on the APRC tour. Another significant variable is the weather and temperature which can change at a moment’s notice as competitors brace themselves for both the heat and humidity, as well as torrential rain. A total of 16 entries have been confirmed for the APRC.
PROTON will also field three other drivers; Malaysian and reigning 2WD APRC champion Karamjit Singh, Japanese driver and defending APRC Junior champion Akira Bamba, and APRC debutante Kenneth Koh in the 1600cc Satria Neos of the Proton R3 Cusco Rally Team.
The Malaysian Rally kicks off on Friday with the ceremonial 2.5km Angsana super special stage designed for spectators and is located next to the Angsana Shopping Complex in Johor Bharu. And for the first time in decades, the first two of the Angsana super special stages will be held under the floodlights at night.
Leg 2 of the rally will take competitors through seven special stages, the longest of which is a 32.94km charge through the Tai Tak oil palm plantation which will be run twice, before returning to Angsana for a second short sprint. The third and final leg of the rally meanwhile, consists of seven more special stages.
In conjunction with the rally, PROTON is also inviting spectators and rally enthusiasts to get up close to the action at the Angsana super special stage and savour some of the latest offerings from its R3 (Race, Rally, Research) motorsports division at a mini PROTON carnival next to the Angsana Shopping Complex and rally service park. The mini carnival will feature a wide range of PROTON performance parts and accessories by R3, and several R3 show models on display which includes the Saga R3, Satria Neo R3, Inspira R3 and Persona R3.
Also on public display for the first time will be the show versions of the Prevé R3 and two special models – the Satria Neo Racing and Satria Neo Rally Edition models.
words & pix: PROTON