PROTON STEERS CLEAR OF TROUBLE, STAYS ON COURSE FOR A PODIUM FINISH

Published on April 3rd, 2011

PROTON powered through a treacherous day 2 at the Malaysian Rally to finish first and third in an event that eliminated seven of the top seeded drivers, and staying on course for a winning start to its Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) campaign.

A week-long of blistering heat in 32 degree celcius temperature was greeted with a heavy downpour just hours before the start of the second day’s seven special stages, turning what was dry and dusty, into a muddy and slippery rally.

The Satria Neo S2000 of Chris Atkinson powered into the lead from the start of special stage 2, building a four-second advantage over team mate McRae at the end of the 32.30km charge at the Tai-Tak Plantation in Kota Tinggi.

By the following 24.49km special stage 3, the PROTON driver’s lead had grown to 37.8 seconds ahead of Team MRF’s Gaurav Gill in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, as McRae was forced to reduce his pace to contain an overheating problem. The problem, which cost him more than four minutes, was later resolved and attributed to debris and vegetation blocking the air path to the radiator through the front bumper grille.

Former APRC champion Cody Crocker was the first casualty of the day after going off the road. Other casualties included Japanese driver Katsuhiko Taguchi, Pertamina Cusco Racing’s Rifat Sungkar and team mate Yuya Sumiyama, former British rally champion Mark Higgins and Malaysian driver Saladin Mazlan – all behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Also succumbing to a mechanical problem was multiple Malaysian Rally and APRC champion Karamjit Singh in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9.

“The conditions were extremely tricky and difficult, and we too had our moments. The morning rain made the terrain very unpredictable as certain stretches were dry but just when you least expect it, the next corner can be muddy and slippery,” said Atkinson.

Faced with an unexpectedly high attrition rate in the rally and leaving nothing to chance, the PROTON service crew replaced a slightly worn right rear driveshaft on Atkinson’s Satria Neo S2000 within nine minutes at the first service interval.

Rejoining the rally after the first service interval, Atkinson stretched his lead to 1 minute 17.4 seconds in special stage 5 which was a repeat run of the 32.30km Tai-Tak special stage. He gained another three seconds in special stage 6, 24 seconds in special stage 7, but conceded four seconds in the final’s day’s 2.5km super special stage to go into the third and final day of the rally with a 1 minute 40.4 seconds lead over Gill. McRae is currently in third, and second in the Asia Cup category.

“Conditions have been extremely difficult with an unexpectedly large number of retirements. We’re extremely pleased that both Satria Neo S2000s have not only been able to demonstrate exceptional pace and performance, but Atkinson and McRae delivered a solid and sensible drive to place PROTON in contention for a podium finish,” said PROTON Motorsports Team Manager Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood.

PROTON Cusco Rally Team’s 1600cc Satria Neo also enjoyed a good run on day 2, with lead Japanese driver Akira Bamba running high in eighth overall as the fastest 1600cc two-wheel drive entry, and leading the APRC Junior Cup category. Team mate Kosuke Takashino meanwhile, is currently placed ninth overall.

The third and final day of the Malaysian Rally will be run over seven special stages totaling 79.80km.

words: Proton  pix: Syafril Ismail

Comments

  1. Posted by TakaFuji on April 7th, 2011, 03:18

    Great!.. Superb Picture! I’m Love It!

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