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The PROTON Motorsports team endured a tough second round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in New Caledonia this weekend, leading the event, but ultimately having to be content with a second day win.
 
The defending APRC champions made a good start, with PROTON’s P-G Andersson leading the event after the first loop of stages. His hopes of taking overall victory were hit, however, when the engine in his Satria-Neo S2000 took in water on the first stage on Saturday morning. The Malaysian powerplant showed great strength to get through the day, but the Swede was ruled out this morning when the engine trouble worsened.
 
Alister McRae’s hopes of winning a rally he led last season went out of the window when he suffered a puncture on the second stage. The Scot continued to the end of the stage in an effort to contain the time lost through the deflation, but the car suffered impact damage to the front-left suspension from the rough roads and he was forced out on SS2.
 
Not permitted to restart on Saturday, McRae did return for the final day of the rally today (under superally re-entry regulations), where he set top-three times on all but one test, winning three of the Pacific island stages.
 
PROTON’s fortunes on this rally were mirrored by the weather, starting brightly before they began to deteriorate through the weekend. And this week’s Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonie was, undoubtedly, one of the toughest APRC rounds for a long time. The tropical storms which hit the roads around Noumea on Saturday delivered vast quantities of rain, flooding the many river crossings which litter the route. The APRC entry was decimated by some of the most demanding rallying in recent memory.
 
The series now moves to Australia for round three, the International Rally of Queensland (May 25-27).
 
Quotes:

P-G Andersson said:
“I had never been to this rally before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. The place is incredible though, with some really good roads. I had been warned about how the weather can change before we started and it really can! The rain that came on Saturday was incredible and the way the river crossings filled up so quickly was unbelievable. Given that I have never driven here before, I was really happy for PROTON and for myself that we were leading on the first day, but then we had the engine problem and we couldn’t get to the finish. It was a very, very tough rally, but we will put this behind us and move on to the next event. We have shown good speed with this car and, after leading the first two APRC rounds, I’m really hopeful of being able to turn that into a win when we get to Queensland for the next round.”
 
Alister McRae said:
“The positive from this rally is that we have come away with points for winning the final day. We pushed hard today and it was good to see the fastest stage times coming our way. Ultimately, though this was a disappointing event. Just when we were settling in, we caught a rock and punctured a tyre. We decided to drive on the tyre, but this damaged the suspension and we had to pull over.”
 
Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood (Head of PROTON Motorsports) said:
“We had hoped for a repeat of last year’s double podium results in New Caledonia, but the reality of rallying is such that all the hard work and preparation is not a guarantee of a strong finish. Having said that, we take consolation in the fact that the Satria Neo S2000 is at its most competitive form in the hands of both Alister [McRae] and P-G [Andersson], having set a blistering pace at the head of the competition.”
 
Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We’re disappointed with the result in New Caledonia. P-G [Andersson] showed great speed with the car again, leading early on before we had the problem with the water on the second day. And Alister [McRae] came back strongly on to win the final day today, further demonstrating the car’s pace. Nobody wants to win more than we do and when you know what the PROTON’s capable of – having seen it perform so strongly to be the fastest car on round one – it’s even more galling when you miss the result on a rally we dominated last season.”
 
Event data:
Round: 2/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Noumea, New Caledonia
Stages: 19
Liaison distance: 391.61km
Competitive distance: 252.82km
Total distance: 644.43km
Conditions: sunshine and rain 23 degrees

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