PROTON rallied to its first ever victory in the 2012 FIA Super World Rally Championship (S-WRC) with Per Gunnar Andersson claiming a dominant drive in the Satria Neo S2000 to finish more than three minutes clear of his nearest rival in Rally Sweden.
Andersson finished the 24 special stages 3 minutes 35 seconds ahead of Ford’s Craig Breen and 4 minutes 49 seconds in front of Skoda’s Pontus Tideman. He was also placed 12th overall ahead of some of the main World Rally Championship (WRC) competitors en route to clinching his third successive win at his Swedish home event.
Andersson and co-driver Emil Axelsson led the S-WRC class from start to finish, making the most of local knowledge, experience and a competitive package to steer the Satria Neo S2000 to victory in the snowy, icy and cold conditions of the Swedish countryside.
“What a phenomenal weekend it has been and a well deserved victory for PROTON after only two rounds of the S-WRC. We knew that we had a very competitive car at the very start of the season in Monte Carlo and we have proven just that in Sweden. The Satria Neo S2000 was dominant throughout the weekend,” said Andersson, who looks back on what could have possibly been two victories in two rounds (of the Championship) for PROTON had it not been for an engine fire three stages to the finish at the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally.
Rally Sweden attracted the participation of 85 entries and covered a competitive distance of 360km over four days.
“Andersson drove a dominant rally to make an impactful introduction for PROTON in Sweden and the World Rally Championship circuit, underlining both the team and brand’s commitment to excel,” said John D. Chacko, PROTON’s Director of Group Marketing, Branding and Motorsports.
Victory in Sweden promotes PROTON to officially joining not only the ranks of rally’s elite, but is its first in the European hemisphere since the Satria Neo S2000 made its competition debut in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) in 2009. PROTON’s best finish up until now had been second place at the 2009 IRC Rally of Scotland, although the Satria Neo S2000 did go on to dominate and win the 2011 Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) driver’s and manufacturer’s titles.
“It has been an incredible journey to get here (victory for PROTON). As we celebrate this moment, I assure you that development work continues to ensure that the Satria Neo S2000 enhances its competitiveness throughout the season. It is still too early in the season and there is still plenty to be done to if Andersson is to make a strong bid for this year’s S-WRC title,” said Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood, the Head of Proton Motorsports.
With Monte Carlo and Sweden now over, PROTON is due to compete in another three of the seven S-WRC rounds in 2012.
words & pix: PROTON