Published on May 15th, 2011

Alister McRae and co-driver Bill Hayes braved the odds to fend off a series of misfortunes on the third and final day of the International Rally of Queensland to give PROTON a strong fourth place finish in what is considered the strongest field in the Asia Pacific rally championship in recent years.

Beginning the day with an eight second advantage over Mitsubishi’s Gaurav Gill, the pair was forced to relinquish the rally when the Proton Satria Neo S2000’s engine began misfiring after a water crossing in one of the day’s seven special stages.

Their charge back to the top was dealt an even serious blow when they were forced to slow down considerably as a result of a broken drive shaft over 50km of the last three special stages of the rally, causing them to lose more time. Despite this, they managed to hang on to 4th place in front of a charging Rifat Sungkar of Indonesia, in a Mitsubishi Evolution 10.

“With no service interval, we were forced to slow down and nurse the car to the finish. It was a tough event, one that presented us with a lot of challenges. McRae and I are obviously disappointed in not being able to secure a podium finish but considering the circumstances, finishing fourth at least sees us heading to the next APRC round with valuable championship points,” said Hayes.

Rejoining the final day of the rally after an early retirement on day two, PROTON team mate Chris Atkinson endured a second electrical failure which ended his rally.

The rally was won by British driver Mark Higgins, who finished 16 seconds ahead of Gill, while in third place was Japanese driver Katsuhiko Taguchi.

“It was a hard fought rally. While we were hoping for a better result after a strong start, fourth place amidst an unfortunate last day will nevertheless go a long way in extending our position in the overall manufacturer’s championship, with full points on Leg 1 and some good points on Leg 2 with a 4th overall and 1st in Class 2” said Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood, the head of PROTON Motorsports.

“Credit goes to Alister and Bill who were able to use all their experience to steer the car to the finish. The Satria Neo S2000 has clearly demonstrated that it has good pace and performance, and this is something we will work to further build on in our fight for the championship.”

Another consolation for PROTON was the fact that its 1600cc group N Satria Neos finished 9th and 11th overall in the rally, and 1st and 2nd in class at the hands of Karamjit Singh and Proton Cusco Rally Team mate Akira Bamba.

words & pix: PROTON


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