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Winning the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is about beating the best in 40-plus degrees Celsius on some of the hottest rallies the planet has to offer. This week, PROTON’s Satria-Neo S2000 faces the opposite end of the temperature range as it ventures north, way north, to Scandinavia – a place 70-odd degrees colder than the scene of the Malaysian team’s historic 2011 successes.

This week is all about the second round of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, Rally Sweden (starting on Thursday February 9). After dominating the opening round of the series on last month’s Rallye Monte-Carlo, local hero P-G Andersson starts his home event with high hopes of another commanding performance. And Andersson’s preparations in the Satria-Neo S2000 couldn’t have gone better, with a Super 2000 victory on the KNA Rally Finnskog in Norway yesterday.

Scotsman Alister McRae joins Andersson in Sweden to make his debut in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship. McRae is, of course, no stranger to the WRC, having competed at the sport’s highest level for six years. This week’s Rally Sweden will be his 76th WRC start. McRae is no stranger to success, either. He arrives at the Karlstad start of the rally as the reigning FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion.

Despite his stunning S2000 victory and fourth place overall on KNA Rally Finnskog, Andersson is keen to further refine the Satria-Neo S2000 at the team’s test tomorrow. According to the two-time Junior World Rally Championship, the car is almost perfect; tomorrow he’ll make it perfect for the Thursday night start of Rally Sweden. Andersson is only too well aware of the need for a fast start, 12 months ago, he led the WRC’s only winter rally outright after the opening test.

Competing on Rally Sweden is unlike any other event in the World Rally Championship. Unique in the WRC calendar, the cars run on specially made winter tyres, fitted with 380 studs. Each one of those studs is 20mm long, but just seven millimetres sticks out of the tyre to claw at the rock-hard ice and snow surface. The result is phenomenal grip, allowing the drivers to brake later than they would on gravel roads. The sight and sound of the Satria-Neo S2000 being balanced on an icy knife-edge of top-gear grip is sure to be one of the highlights of the season.

The event gets underway at a ceremonial start in the centre of Karlstad on Thursday (February 9) at 1900. The crews will then face a day of competition in Norway (Friday February 10), with service in Kongsvinger before heading back into Sweden for a weekend of action based around Hagfors. The event finishes back in Karlstad after 24 high-speed stages on Sunday (February 12) at 1616.

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:
“I had a good idea of what I wanted from the car before we started Rally Finnskog yesterday, but we still made some really small changes to the car through the day. It’s almost perfect now. We still need to do some suspension work for the rougher sections; the roads in Norway didn’t get too cut-up, but we should be able to do those changes at the test tomorrow. By the time we get to the start, I’m sure the car will be exactly as we want it. Yesterday’s rally was fantastic. The temperature was -32 or something like that, but the sun came out and the roads were incredible. Yesterday was what rallying is all about: full sideways and flat-out. I’m really looking forward to the start of Rally Sweden, where, of course, we are aiming for the SWRC win. I hear there might be some snow coming on the weekend; I would like that, I prefer it when the conditions get a bit more tricky. But, for sure, fourth in Finnskog yesterday was the perfect start for the Satria on snow.”

Alister McRae said:
“When the conditions are right on this event, Rally Sweden is the best in the world, no question. When you are flat in top and leaning the car on the solid snow banks, coming out of the corner a gear higher than you thought possible, it’s the best feeling in rallying. And I’ve missed it for the last eight years – so I can’t tell you how glad I am to be back. It’s fantastic. P-G’s result yesterday, along with the pace the team showed in Monte Carlo and the multiple championships we won last year have all lifted PROTON Motorsports to another level. Living in Western Australia, we don’t get to see much snow, so it’s going to take me a while to back into driving on the stuff. Fortunately, my car set-up is pretty similar to P-G’s – we saw that when we competed together on Rally Scotland last year – so I should be able to start tomorrow’s test with his base set-up on the Satria-Neo. We start every event looking for the win and this is no different, but being realistic, I think P-G’s PROTON is going to be the one more likely to be the fighting at the front, certainly at the start of the rally. P-G showed last year that he is extremely quick in these conditions – so we’ll just follow him!”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“Given that the Satria-Neo S2000 had never competed in conditions anything like the -32 degrees we endured in Norway, it’s fair to say we didn’t know too much about what to expect. But the car was perfect. The only change we made to the car was to fit a stronger heater in the car to make sure we could keep the windscreen clear – oh, and we chucked some warmer jackets in the back for the boys. Otherwise, this was the car which won in Malaysia when it was 70 degrees hotter; pretty versatile this Satria-Neo! Alister and P-G will be testing again tomorrow, but we’re down to fine-tuning the car for Rally Sweden now.”
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