Proton chase first Chinese rally win in 2233 years
- 31st October 2011, 9:25am
PROTON driver Chris Atkinson has already collected the Pacific Cup courtesy of his three wins from five starts earlier this year. Atkinson’s team-mate Alister McRae is confident of the Asia Cup, while PROTON is well-set to take the Team Trophy. The FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Manufacturers’ championship still hangs in the balance and, while PROTON continues to lead the series, it faces another significant challenge on the mountain roads south of Shanghai.
The only certainty next week is that either Atkinson or McRae will be crowned FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion, ensuring the region’s highest honour will be bestowed on a driver from the Malaysian manufacturer for the first time since Karamjit Singh collected his third title in four years in 2004.
Ahead of China Rally Longyou, Scotsman McRae has a seven-point lead over his Australian team-mate Atkinson with 39 points still available next week.
This sixth and final round of the APRC is one of the toughest of the year, with the crews racing through bamboo forests, up and over mountains and across roads alternating from concrete to loose gravel.
While PROTON Motorsports can’t rival the incredible history of the Chinese dynasties, it does have a strong recent history on the nation’s biggest rally of the season, having finished one-two on China Rally Longyou in 2010. McRae won the event from Atkinson.
Outscoring Atkinson on the last round of the series in Japan, McRae moved past Atkinson to lead the APRC drivers’ standings for the first time this year. With one round to go, both PROTON stars are desperate to land their first FIA title – but both are mindful of PROTON’s desire to win the makes’ race and the need to lift all five of the APRC awards they have been in pursuit of since the start of the year.
China Rally Longyou starts with a superspecial stage on Friday (November 4) evening.
Alister McRae said:
“This is a very, very difficult rally. Both Chris [Atkinson] and I suffered punctures on this event last year, so the priority has to be to avoid those. China is a tough event, which can be quite hard on the car. Some parts of the route are used quite a few times in different configurations, so sections of road can be quite cut up. One stage includes around 40 hairpins in 18 kilometres – essentially we go up one side of the mountain and down the other. I won the APRC Formula Two title in 1999, sharing it with my team-mate Kenneth Eriksson, so it would be great to lift the overall title this time around. The priority is to take the manufacturers’ title for PROTON, but with so few points separating Chris and myself in the drivers’ championship, it’s going to be an interesting battle between us for the drivers’ title.”
Chris Atkinson said:
“I was pretty devastated when we didn’t secure the drivers’ championship last time out in Japan, so I’m determined to do that this time around. But I’m sure Alister’s probably going to be telling a similar story! It will be a great competition with Alister, but this event is no walk in the park. China is a very difficult place to come and compete. We’ve won three times in this year's APRC, so we’ve just got to keep on doing what we’ve been doing and focus on our own race. While we’re doing that, what we will be keeping at the front of our minds is the need for PROTON to be manufacturers’ champions. It’s time to be smart.”
Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“Having competed myself, it’s very difficult to look at a [drivers’] championship position and make a call on either driver. All we can do is remind both of them to respect PROTON’s wish to become manufacturers’ champion this year. There’s an FIA title up for grabs here and both guys are desperate for it and both would be worthy winners. This is what you call a rock and a hard place, but PROTON is the absolute priority – we need to ice the cake which we’ve spent this season baking.”
Round: 6/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Longyou, China
Liaison distance: 399.75km
Competitive distance: 235.64km
Total distance: 635.39km
Time difference: China is GMT+8hrs
Friday November 4
SS1 Super Special Stage (1.82km) 1900
Saturday November 5
SS2 San MenYuan 1 (16.35km) 0926
SS3 Heng Shan 1 (13.23km) 1015
SS4 She Yang 1 (25.10km) 1108
Service Long Xiang Lu 1156
SS5 San MenYuan 2 (16.35km) 1322
SS6 Heng Shan 2 (13.23km) 1411
SS7 She Yang 2 (25.10km) 1504
Service Long Xiang Lu 1552
Sunday November 6
SS8 Ma Shu Kou 1 (25.53km) 0907
SS9 Mao Jia Pu 1 (14.70km) 0947
SS10 Luo Jia 1 (22.00km) 1033
Service Long Xiang Lu 1111
SS11 Ma Shu Kou 2 (25.53km) 1241
SS12 Mao Jia Pu 2 (14.70km) 1321
SS13 Luo Jia 2 (22.00km) 1407
Finish Long Xiang Lu 1518
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