Proton Motorsports will start its 2011 programme of events with next month's Monte Carlo Rally, where regular driver Chris Atkinson will be joined by P-G Andersson.

Two-time FIA Junior World Rally Champion Andersson (Sweden) brings plenty of experience to the PROTON Motorsports, having previously driven for the Suzuki and Ford World Rally Teams.

While confirming its drivers for the January 19-22 Intercontinental Rally Challenge opener, PROTON can also confirm it will contest 10 rounds of the IRC and the full FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship with the Satria Neo S2000.

In addition to Atkinson and Andersson, Scotsman Alister McRae will remain with the Malaysian manufacturer for next season, contesting the APRC series and selected rounds of the IRC.

For now though, all eyes are on the French Alps and the forthcoming Monte Carlo Rally. Next year's rally will be one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the motorsporting calendar as the world's oldest rally celebrates its centenary year. First run in 1911, the 2011 itinerary poses a considerably tougher challenge than it did 100 years ago.

Starting from Valence, in the heart of the Ardeche region, next month's event will take crews through the stages which have built the legend of this rally down the years. And, just when the competitors think the event can't get any tougher, they arrive at the overnight final loop which takes them over the classic Col de Turini - a stretch of road which has caused more than its fair share of upset, intrigue and delight in equal measure. And it's before the passionate and frenzied fans on top of the Turini that PROTON aims to deliver its first result of the season.

PROTON is already building new Satria Neo S2000s for next season, with the test car already heading south for the Alps to start testing with Atkinson and Andersson early next week.

The Monte Carlo Rally is nothing new to both PROTON's drivers, with Australian Atkinson arriving in the principality with three starts and three finishes on an event that's rated among the most difficult in the world. Atkinson has never finished outside the top six and collected a FIA World Rally Championship podium last time out in 2008.

Andersson has also contested the rally three times, taking a strong eighth place on the 2008 event.


Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir (Proton MD) said:
"We are extremely proud to be able to reveal our plans for the 2011 rally programme. This development represents yet more exciting news from PROTON, which celebrates its 25th birthday this year. It's incredible to think how far we have come for such a relatively young company. But this is just the beginning for PROTON. Thanks to the close alliance with MEM in the UK, the rally team will go from strength to strength, embracing the cutting-edge technology which runs through the PROTON road car range. Competing at such a high level of rallying across the globe offers PROTON the perfect opportunity to showcase its range of road cars. And all of those cars sold to our valued customers contain a little piece of our rallying DNA; the same spirit of performance, expertise and reliability which will undoubtedly carry the Satria Neo S2000 to the greatest of heights next season."

Chris Atkinson said:
"Starting the season with the Monte is awesome. As a rally driver, this is the traditional place where we always start our year. I've always gone well on the event, but it is really tough. Running high in the Alps in January, you never know what's really coming around the next corner: it could be dry asphalt, wet asphalt, snow or ice. It's a massive challenge for the team and the driver, with one of the most important aspects being to get the tyres right. I'm looking forward to continuing my strong record there with PROTON. As for the rest of the year, it's great to have everything sorted out with a really forward-looking team like PROTON. There was definitely a feeling of leaving some unfinished business in the APRC last season, so we'll be back bigger, better and stronger on some of the hottest and toughest rallies in the world next year."

P-G Andersson said:
"It's great to be joining the PROTON team for Monte, I can't wait to get the testing started. It's been a couple of years since I was on this rally the last time, but I have always made good stage times there and it's a rally I like. Of course, the conditions can make it tough, but if you have to gamble with the tyre choice then you can always make some big gains. Drivers tend to like grip from the car, so a dry Monte would be nice, but if we have a lot of snow it's always fantastic to drive in these conditions. For now, we are with PROTON for Monte, but we will be talking straight after the rally to see what is possible for the future. I'm very happy to join a team which is looking forward to a good future in the sport."

Alister McRae said:
"I'm really pleased to be involved with the team for 2011. We showed some great potential through last year and with everything in place, I think we can build on that for next season. The Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is the thrust of the programme for me and going into next year off the back of the first APRC one-two in China is great news for PROTON. I was third in the APRC this year and my priority is to improve on that, hopefully by two places!"

Chris Mellors (Team Principal) said:
"We've had an extremely positive few weeks since the end of our season, with PROTON confirming its significant investment in the car, the team and infrastructure for next season. To have the programme signed off is great news and to have PROTON so thoroughly behind us on this makes for a very exciting year ahead. On a more practical footing, we have already begun our testing for Monte Carlo. Next week, P-G [Andersson] will drive the car for the first time in the Alps, where he will join our other entry for the Monte, Chris Atkinson. We've made some steps this season, but with everything in place for next we're looking to really push the PROTON Motorsports ahead in 2011." 
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