Proton thrilled with APRC rally success
- 7th November 2011, 3:00pm
Scotsman Alister McRae was on superlative form to take the Drivers’ title along with the FIA Asia Cup. McRae’s PROTON team-mate Chris Atkinson was second in the overall Drivers’ championship, having already won the FIA Pacific Cup. PROTON won the FIA APRC Teams’ Trophy and the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Manufacturers’ title.
Having run the fastest cars in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship all season, it was fitting that the year should end with another stunning performance from the Malaysian manufacturer. Between them, McRae and Atkinson won all but two of the 13 tricky stages in the mountains south of Shanghai. At the end of day one, McRae was close to a minute up on his nearest rival after a perfect day at the wheel of his PROTON. A day later, he was celebrating his second consecutive China Rally Longyou win and his first outright FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title.
Conditions on the event were as difficult as anything the PROTON drivers have faced all season, with wet weather – and heavy rain in the days leading up to the start – making the gravel and concrete stages unbelievably slippery. But McRae mastered them. Wearing spectacles to drive in for the first time, the former British Rally Champion was on top form to win six of seven day-one stages. Despite his healthy lead, he pushed again this morning to build an even bigger cushion, before throttling back and driving to the finish.
Atkinson ended the event on a high with four consecutive fastest times on the roads through the Longyou region. Having won three of the season’s six APRC rounds, the Australian was unable to score the fourth maximum he needed in China to take the title from his team-mate.
Having won in Malaysia, New Caledonia, New Zealand and now China, the PROTON Motorsports team will now celebrate its most successful season of all.
The Satria Neo S2000 was the class of the field throughout the 2011 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. And, after six of the world’s toughest rallies, the Malaysians stand above everybody to celebrate five APRC title wins.
It’s been an incredible year. It’s been PROTON’s perfect year.
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Alister McRae said:
“As you would expect, Bill [Hayes, co-driver] and I are absolutely delighted with the result – and not just for ourselves, but for the whole team. This is a great result for PROTON Motorsports, for all of the guys working on the programme back in the UK and everybody in Malaysia, we’re proud to have been part of an incredible season of success. On the rally itself, everything clicked for us from the first stage. When that happens, it’s certainly not easy, but everything just flows and works as you would want it to. We pushed really hard on the first day and made some time to build a good lead. As usual, this was a tough rally. It rained quite hard just prior to the rally and on those narrow and tricky stages, it made for a difficult event. But we came through with a tremendous result: one, two in the Drivers’ championship and the Manufacturers’. Winning an FIA championship is a great achievement for me as a driver and for Bill as a co-driver. What a fantastic weekend!”
Chris Atkinson said:
“I’m disappointed not to have won the Drivers’ championship, but in winning three rallies and leading two more APRC rounds this year, we played our part in helping PROTON to win the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ titles. As we expected, this was a tricky event with the conditions and the nature of the stages.”
PROTON Holdings Group Managing Director Dato’ Sri Haji Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said:
“The results in China sum up what has been a challenging, but rewarding year for PROTON. Excelling in competition serves a bigger purpose in that it significantly supports our aspiration in becoming a competitive global car manufacturer. Motorsport is one of several key strategies being pursued to enhance the PROTON brand, especially in markets that we are actively exporting to. In addition, it enables us to promote and increase awareness of the brand, while injecting excitement and providing a platform in which technology and technical know-how can be developed and applied to future road-going models. This has been a remarkable year for PROTON.”
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Manufacturer team principal Chris Mellors said:
“This is what we came here for. It’s been pretty much the perfect weekend for the team. I think this is what you call a dream result for the team and it’s one we’ve all worked really hard for all season. The conditions were quite tough on both days, with the rain making the roads really slippery and tricky, but Alister came out of the blocks really quickly and got on it from the start. He was quickest at the super special and just went from there. He was wearing glasses for the first time this weekend and being able to see where he was going has made a real difference; maybe we should have sent him to the opticians earlier and saved some of the damage! Seriously, though, as a team, we’re delighted with the result in China and through the year. We’ve won four from six rallies and with both drivers, been the consistent pace-setters through the year. We’ve won everything and we can’t ask for more than that.”
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