PROTON SCORES FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS IN IRC IN SPAIN

Published on April 18th, 2011

Giandomenico Basso rallied the Satria Neo Super 2000 to its best finish yet this season at the Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés in Spain, to secure PROTON’s first championship points in the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC).

The Italian driver’s spirited drive to ninth place earned him two points in the driver’s championship, and 16 points for PROTON in the manufacturer’s championship. PROTON was the best of Asian manufacturers in Spain, finishing ahead of Suzuki, Honda and Subaru, and finished ahead of European manufacturers Citroen, Renault and Ford.

The results in Spain also places PROTON fourth in the IRC championship point standings after two rounds behind leaders Skoda and Peugeot, and just two points adrift of Subaru currently in third place.

The top eight places in Spain were dominated by Skoda and Peugeot, with defending IRC champion Juho Hanninen rallying to victory ahead of Skoda team mate Jan Kopecky. Finishing third was Thierry Neuville in the Peugeot 207 S2000.

Basso was 49 seconds behind Bruno Magalhaes who finished eighth in another Peugeot 207 S2000, and 48 seconds ahead of former World Rally Championship driver Toni Gardemeister in a fifth Skoda Fabia S2000 to make up the top 10 fastest drivers.

“It is a positive result to start with the new team…I think we did a good job and now that the event is over, we will be discussing what further improvements we can make to the car with as there is still a long way to go in the championship,” said Basso.

PROTON team mate PG Andersson meanwhile, completed the rally in 16th after losing a lot of ground on day one of the rally due to two punctures. Andersson stopped to change a first puncture but with the absence of a second spare tyre, was forced to tackle special stage six with another slow puncture. That dropped him to drop to19th overall, losing more than six minutes but the Swedish driver fought back hard on the second and final day to reduce the deficit and settled for 16th.

Contested over undulating asphalt on the small Spanish island just 100km off the coast of Africa, round 2 of the IRC, was contested over 12 special stages covering a distance of 190.59km.

The rally attracted the participation of 35 drivers competing in the IRC category, with Peugeot represented with the largest contingent of super 2000 cars, fielding six 207 S2000 followed by Skoda with five Fabia S2000 cars.

PROTON’s Spanish conquest is a manifestation of all the development and improvements that have gone into the Satria Neo S2000 which had recently secured its first victory in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) with a 1st and 3rd place finish at the season opening Malaysian Rally.

“While the Satria Neo S2000 has benefitted from a number of enhancements, we arrived at the rally fully realizing that the competition will be extremely stiff. A top 10 finish and securing 16 championship points is nevertheless encouraging, proving that we are progressively moving forward and getting more competitive. Above all, it tells us how much more is required,” said PROTON Holdings Berhad Group Managing Director Dato’ Sri Haji Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir.

words & pix: Proton

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