The PROTON R3 Rally Team drivers Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson retired from the Geko Ypres Rally with an engine fault on their Satria Neo S2000s.

Both cars, and the third semi-works entry of Tom Cave, stopped when the valve spring on the number two inlet valve failed on the two-litre engines. The cars all stopped on the fourth stage of the latest round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

The team had started the Belgian event on good form, having finished second overall on a small test event just days prior to the start of the Ypres-based rally, and having enjoyed a trouble-free test in Britain ahead of the start of PROTON's IRC programme.

Data from all three cars is being analysed at the PROTON R3 Rally Team's base in the UK, with a solution being prepared in time for this weekend's Rally of Whangarei, the Malaysian firm's next outing in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

Alister McRae said:
"What a bizarre way to end a rally. I've never had my team-mates retire so close to me with the same problem before. Obviously, this is really disappointing for everybody. We're all putting in a great deal of effort, you know it's us drivers out there who are driving the cars and being seen by everybody, but there's a whole team of people back in the UK who are working all hours to make this happen. The engine problem came out of the blue, we hadn't had anything to indicate it was coming at all. The engineers are looking at the data now and I'm sure they'll be able to read more into it once they've digested everything. It's such a shame, it was great to be on such a high-profile event and the rally hadn't started too badly. We'd made some changes to the car's set-up during the first loop of stages and that helped; it's frustrating to know what we could have done with the data from a full event. Like I said, it's tough at the moment, but I've been in situations like this before and it's about being patient the results will come with the kind of hard work being put in."

Chris Atkinson said:
"We started this event looking for a top 10 result and, I think, without the problem we had, that sort of finish could have been on the cards. It was tough to come here first time and compete with guys who have done this event time and time again, but that was the way it was. Once again, this event demonstrates that the PROTON has great potential, but to come to what is a very competitive championship for Super 2000 cars and try to show that potential is not easy."

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
"As a team, we're devastated by the retirements. The frustration is that every single person involved in this team is working themselves flat-out 24 hours, seven days a week; we couldn't do any more than we're doing. I guess the positive to take from this, is that the three cars went with the same problem. We know where the issue is, so it's not like one car went with a broken gearbox half-way through, another went with a driveshaft on Saturday and the third had gone with the engine on day one. Ironically, we didn't put a part on the cars during the pre-event test, the small event we did prior to this one or at shakedown for this rally. This is the sport we're in sometimes. For us, it's heads up and down to New Zealand for the next round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. The one sure thing here is that, knowing how good this car is, we won't stop working until the potential is realised."

Event data:
Round: 6/12, Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Based: Ypres, Belgium
Stages: 19
Liaison distance: 357.68km
Competitive distance: 293.62km
Total distance: 651.30km
Conditions: 23 degrees, sunny
Day one leader: Freddy Loix (B) Skoda
Winner: Freddy Loix (B) Skoda

Next event (FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship):
International Rally of Whangarei, New Zealand (July 3/4)
Based in Whangarei, north of Auckland, the third round of this year's FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship is always a firm favourite among the drivers. The heavily cambered, fast and flowing gravel roads which surround the rally's base in New Zealand's northernmost city are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Both PROTON drivers Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson have driven these stages previously, and both will be chasing their maiden win in the Satria Neo S2000. 
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