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PROTON Motorsports begins its challenge for the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship glory on next week’s Rallye Monte-Carlo.

After dominating last year’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, where PROTON won the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles, the Malaysian manufacturer arrives at one of world motorsport’s most iconic events for a legendary, five-day race through mountains to the principality of Monte Carlo.

The PROTON Motorsports team will field two Satria-Neo S2000s for Rallye Monte-Carlo (January 18-22), the first of seven SWRC rounds it will contest this season.

Two-time FIA Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson and double FIA European Rally Champion Giandomenico Basso will contest the opening SWRC round for PROTON. Both drivers have previous experience of what is recognised as one of the most challenging rallies of the season – and both are raring to get back into the Satria-Neo S2000 for their second year with the team. Both drivers have also finished in the Rallye Monte-Carlo top 10 previously.

Andersson and Basso have been testing the PROTON in the mountains close to the French-Italian border this week, with both drivers reporting significant progress with the Satria-Neo S2000.

PROTON already has a strong history in the World Rally Championship, having won the 2002 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship with Malaysian driver Karamjit Singh, but this year’s SWRC represents a new challenge – a challenge which will bring the Satria-Neo S2000 into competition with some of the strongest rally machinery around.

Rallye Monte-Carlo has a long and illustrious history. First running in 1911, next week’s event is the 80th edition and it looks set to be one of the toughest. The organisers of the rally have ramped up the competitive action, with a route starting from Valence in the Drome region and running through the Ardeche, Haute-Loire, Vercors before ending with a final evening and day in the Alpes Maritimes where the crews will contest the legendary Col du Turini stage twice – including a run at night.

The 18 stages total 433.36 competitive kilometres, which added to the liaison section make up a complete route of 1,772.52 kilometres.

This event is tricky enough, running through some of the most technical and twisty stages of the season, but when you add the Alpine element, then you get probably the most complex rally of the year. Proton will have the choice of five different tyres – more than on any other event this season – in an effort to cover off every conceivable condition from dry to wet asphalt, ice, snow, slush and rain. Sometimes, the crews can get all of those conditions in one stage.

Rallye Monte-Carlo is a true challenge and to come out the other side is a victory in itself.

The event begins with a ceremonial start in Valence at 1900 on Tuesday January 17 and finishes at 1500 on Sunday January 22 in Monaco.

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:
“As soon as I drove the car at the test, immediately I could feel there was more torque from the engine: the car is definitely a step forward from last year. I am very happy with this! The team has worked really hard. The benefit from these changes with the engine will come from a faster exit from slower corners. At the same time, the car’s handing is also feeling better. But now we have to see what happens on the rally itself. Who can tell what’s going to happen on the Monte? Nobody. Everything is possible next week, but I hope to be looking for the podium result. I really like this rally, but in the past I have made some silly mistakes – I’m determined not to do that. As well as anything, we have to remember that there is no superally this year, so if we retire then we are finished and out of the game. The weather plays such a big part on this event; personally, I like it when we have the changeable conditions, you never know what you’re going to get. I think it’s easiest to make the best result when the roads are like this as well.”

Giandomenico Basso said:
“First, I have to say how happy I am to be back with PROTON. I have good times with this team and I like to be driving the Satria-Neo S2000 again this year. We had the good test, everything felt well. I think we have some more small changes before the event, which will also help the car some more. I have good memories of this rally: it was on Rallye Monte-Carlo where I made my debut in the World Rally Championship. I won a competition in 1999 and ended up with an entry on this great event. It’s also nice to be back in the WRC, I haven’t driven in this series for a lot of years. Our test went well, no problems and looking to the event, I think the first priority is to survive the changing conditions. We saw how difficult this event could be last year – I remember leaving the service park on one morning in beautiful sunshine, then we arrived at the stage and it was pure ice! We have to get the tyres right, as well. Make the wrong choice and the rally can be destroyed. It’s really exciting to be back at the start of another season.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We’re delighted to be contesting the Super 2000 World Rally Championship and we’re also very pleased with the work we’ve done on the Satria-Neo S2000 over the closed season. The drivers are both very happy with what they’ve got for this event, so let’s see what we can do. Obviously we want to be at the front of the SWRC pack, but the priority has to be to get some points on the board on this first round of the championship. The emphasis is on getting to Monaco on Sunday afternoon. But what an event! The first stage? Thirty-six kilometres. Bang, off you go. And it gets harder from there. The weather is looking like it will be very cold, but dry – which would suit us: that’s what we got in the test. If there is any snow, we’ve got that covered as well with plenty of set-up data from previous tests. The whole team is really looking forward to getting back to the World Rally Championship and making a good start in France next week.”
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