This weekend marks the first time rally fans in Finland will have the opportunity to see PROTON’s rally-winning Satria Neo S2000 in action when it competes in the Neste Oils Rally Finland for round five of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship.
And for an event which has been dominated by locals (Rally Finland has only been won by a non-Nordic driver four times in the WRC history), PROTON has entrusted Swedish driver PG Andersson and Finnish driver Juha Salo to spearhead its challenge on what is reputed to be one of the fastest and most specialized rallies on the World Rally Championship calendar.
PROTON has tested extensively ahead of Rally Finland, having worked on new specifications for the Satria Neo S2000 – that clocked an impressive win at the Malaysian Rally round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) earlier this month. Most recently, Andersson and Salo also drove the car for two days in Estonia and are due to shake down their rally cars at an official test close to rally headquarters in Jyvaskyla prior to the start on Thursday.
“After driving on such slow and twisty roads (on the last APRC round) in Malaysia, coming to Finland is completely the opposite – the roads here are incredibly fast. Like all drivers, I love to fly and this is one of my favourite rallies of the year. It’s a fantastic feeling to take off in the car when you are absolutely flat out in sixth gear,” said Andersson.
“I need to win this SWRC round and I feel we have the speed to do that – and that was evident at the last SWRC event in New Zealand. In Malaysia during the APRC, we saw that the new homologation of the Satria Neo S2000 was working well and it’s clear after the test that it’s already really helping us through the high-speed roads as well.”
The Neste Oils Rally Finland consists of 18 special stages run on gravel over a competitive distance of 303.52km. Leg 1 starts with three special stages on Thursday and continues on Friday with another nine special stages. The third and final day on Saturday features six special stages.
For Salo, the objective will be to finish the rally in his Satria Neo S2000, in what will be his first time out not only for PROTON, but in an S2000 rally car after making the switch from Group N (production class) cars.
“This is definitely the biggest opportunity of my life. I already did several tests in Wales and Estonia and with so much time in the car, it has helped me to adapt my driving style. Winning SWRC here in Finland – and in the Satria Neo S2000, would be a dream result,” said Salo.
words & pix: PROTON