PROTON Rally Team receives Jalur Gemilang in Flag-Handing ceremony

Published on April 20th, 2010

The Ministry of Youth and Sports handed the Jalur Gemilang to the PROTON R3 Malaysia Rally Team today, to mark the 2010 Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) season, and in recognition of the national automotive manufacturer’s initiative in elevating Malaysia’s name in the world motorsport arena.

The Minister of Youth and Sports, Yang Berhormat Dato’ Ahmad Shabery Cheek, handed over the Malaysian flag to PROTON Holdings Berhad Group Managing Director Dato’ Haji Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir, in the event today. Dato’ Ahmad Shabery was also shown the new PROTON Satria Neo Super2000 rally car at the flag-handing ceremony.

flag-handover

Dato’ Haji Syed Zainal said that PROTON was extremely proud of the honour, and that the event marks a historical moment for the automotive manufacturer as it signifies the Malaysian government’s recognition of its efforts in shouldering the Malaysian dream in the sport. He also urged the team to use this as motivation to do their best and to always be at their best in the 2010 season.

“Motorsports is one of several key strategies being pursued to firmly establish PROTON as a global brand, especially in the markets that we are actively exporting to. It also presents us with the opportunity to generate a desired level of awareness in potential markets,” said Dato’ Haji Syed Zainal.

The national car manufacturer had previously announced that it will mount a challenge in the 2010 Asia Pacific Rally Championship. The rally programme, run in collaboration with Mellors Elliot Motorsport, will see PROTON fielding two Satria NEO S2000 rally cars in six of the seven rounds of the championship.

neos2000

Like PROTON’s involvement in Formula One via Lotus Racing, rallying, Dato’ Haji Syed Zainal added, was also an effective platform to build awareness given the fact that the vehicles in competition generally attracted enormous interest from fans, spectators and the public at large.

“With motorsports, it is always an emotional bond that a car manufacturer intends to establish with the public. In some ways, it does help to propel sales and influence individuals to consider a particular brand when making a purchase. At the very least, the better we perform on track, the greater the awareness the brand attracts and with this, recognition. In addition, motor-racing, in this case rallying, will also serve as a proving ground for PROTON with the hope that some innovative elements derived from competition can also be translated into improving on our future products,” he said.

PROTON’s APRC campaign will be spearheaded by former World Rally Championship drivers Alistair McRae and co-driver Bill Hayes, and Chris Atkinson and co-driver Stephane Prevot. McRae and Hayes had played a significant role in helping to develop the Satria NEO S2000 in 2009, while Atkinson and co-driver Prevot meanwhile, were formerly of the renowned Subaru World Rally Team and also two-time winner of the Asia Pacific Super 1600 Championship in 2003 and 2004.

meters2000

The Satria NEO S2000 made its competition debut in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) in 2009, and had enjoyed a commendable season, finishing consistently in the top 10 positions in six rounds of the championship against more established Manufacturer Teams the likes of Peugeot, Skoda, Fiat, Subaru and Mitsubishi. The team’s best finish was a second placing at the Rally of Scotland and finishing fourth in the Rally of Russia. PROTON had also participated in three rounds of the coveted Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) in 2009.

Round one of the 2010 APRC will kick off with the Rally of Malaysia from 23-25 April. This will be followed by the Rally of Japan from 23-23 May, Rally of New Zealand (3-4 July), Rally of Australia (31 July-1 August), Rally of Indonesia (25-26 September) and finally the Rally of China (6-7 November). Dato’ Haji Syed Zainal said PROTON is also in the process of evaluating the prospect of entering the 2010 IRC. Should it enter, its campaign will begin with round one in Sardinia, Italy from 4-6 June.

text & pix: PROTON

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