PROTON’s PG Andersson enjoyed an inspiring opening day by emerging fastest throughout the first four special stages in Rally New Caledonia.
Andersson won three of the day’s four special stages, stamping his authority from the first 16.8km “Gadji” special stage to finish 1.6 seconds ahead of the two Skoda Fabia S2000s of Chris Atkinson and Gaurav Gill, with PROTON team mate Alister McRae in fourth place.
Andersson was quickest in the Satria Neo S2000 as he swept through the longest special stage of the day, a tricky section with many twisty uphill as well as downhill sections.
In special stage 2, Andersson was a clear three seconds faster than Atkinson, completing the run in a time of 10 minutes and 15.7 seconds.
McRae however, was forced to bow out after special stage 2 as a result of damage. He managed to drive the Satria Neo S2000 out of the stage but with a 25km drive and two special stages to go, the damage on the car was too extensive for him to continue. McRae will restart Leg 2 under the Super Rally format.
“We were flat out and on the attack mode from the start. The stages are incredibly exciting and the car felt unbelievably fast and planted through the twisty stages,” said Andersson who in special stage 3 again clocked the fastest time ahead of Atkinson.
The Swedish driver however, missed out on making a clean sweep of the day’s four special stages, finishing three seconds adrift of the Skodas of Gill, who was fastest, and Atkinson.
PROTON is looking to establish back to back victory in New Caledonia, having won the rally last year.
Rally New Caledonia runs through beautiful lush vegetation and farming plains, and will be contested over a competitive distance of 252.82km covering 19 special stages.
Leg 2 of the rally continues with nine more special stages while the third and the final day of rallying will involve six special stages including the longest which is a 24.41km charge through Pirogues Almameto.
“Andersson has adapted very well to the rally, considering this is his first appearance in New Caledonia. The competition is definitely intense this time round and with two more days of rallying it will really be down to the individual with the right strategy and the ability to pace himself to the finish,” said Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood, the Head of PROTON Motorsports.
“We have a competitive package coming to New Caledonia and we believe we are in good contention for a podium,” he added.
words & pix: PROTON