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Malaysian Rally review
Apr 27, 2010

The PROTON R3 Rally Team gave the thousands of Malaysian rally fans plenty to cheer about on this weekend’s Malaysian Rally, which finished in Johor this afternoon. Both Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson set fastest times in their Satria Neo S2000s, with McRae just missing out on victory in some of the toughest conditions ever. Atkinson ended the event just off the podium in fourth place.

Despite never having competed on the opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship before, Alister gave PROTON the dream start to the nation’s biggest car rally by leading the event after the opening stage. The Scotsman remained at the sharp end of the leaderboard throughout Saturday and moved back into the lead with another fastest time on SS6. From then on, despite torrential rain and soaring temperatures, McRae controlled the event from the front.

After leading overnight, the former British Rally Champion further extended his advantage on the opening two stages this morning, looking comfortable and apparently guiding his PROTON towards victory in Malaysia. Unfortunately for McRae and co-driver Bill Hayes, an engine problem at the start of today’s third stage meant they would go no further. Massively disappointed, McRae refused to be downbeat about the event and feels the Malaysian Rally has marked the PROTON out as the car to beat in this year’s APRC series.

McRae’s team-mate Atkinson showed similar commitment and speed in the sister Satria. Despite never having competed in a Super 2000 car before, the Queenslander and his co-driver Stephane Prevot were soon up to speed: they collected their first fastest time for PROTON on the fifth test. More was to come from Chris as he maintained that top-of-the-table pace until the end of the day.

Unfortunately for Atkinson, he’d suffered an electrical problem with the car on Saturday’s opening test, which left him playing catch up for the remainder of the day. Chris recovered to fourth place, collecting valuable APRC points for both himself and PROTON. McRae collected three points for being the fastest driver through the opening day.

Like McRae, this was a new event for Atkinson, but the next round (Rally Hokkaido, Japan – May 22/23) is more familiar territory for the Australian star and he’s heading to the APRC’s northernmost event determined to put his PROTON on the top step of the podium.

Quotes:

Alister McRae said:
“I don’t think I have ever seen so much enthusiasm for a rally programme as I saw in Malaysia in the run up to last week’s event. It was incredible. There was so much support from the PROTON factory, the Malaysian government and all the people out there. It was a genuine honour to be driving the car on PROTON’s home event. And even better, we were setting the pace and leading the rally. I really thought we were heading for that dream result; PROTON and the MEM team deserved to win the Malaysian Rally. The car was sensational, a real credit to all the boys at MEM who have worked tirelessly through the winter to make the Satria Neo S2000 the quickest car in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. We had a small problem with the fan on the engine yesterday [Saturday], but it’s testament to the engine that, even in the harshest and hottest conditions I’ve ever competed in, this engine just kept on running. Maybe the problem we had on the third stage today [Sunday] was related to that. The conditions really were that tough. I’m a Scot, so I’m used to torrential rain – but it’s usually 35 degrees cooler when it’s raining where I come from! There are so many positives to take away from Malaysia, it’s just made me more excited about the season to come. The APRC title is there for us to win and we’ll be back on track in Japan next month.”

Chris Atkinson said:
“I can’t tell you how good it is to be back in a rally car again! And what a rally car! The Satria is amazing, a real driver’s car. I hadn’t done much testing before the start of the event and I’d been away from racing for a year and a half, so it was fantastic to get to shakedown and get through some corners. Shakedown was good for us, it started dry and then poured with rain, so we got a good idea of what the car was going to do in both conditions. We had an electrical problem on the first stage which was a bit of a blow, but we were bang on it for the next one. This event was about getting a result for PROTON, once we’d lost our chance of winning, so I was driving with that in the back of my mind. The conditions were hard going on this event. I remember doing the Jordan Rally at 45 degrees and thinking that was tough, but this was much harder than that. The good thing about the Satria is that you really have to work at it to get the best out of it, which is fantastic, but maybe not quite so fantastic when it’s so hot and humid in the car! As you progressed through the stage, you could feel the heat soaking into you, but there was nothing to do. The iced towels at the end of each stage have never felt so good! There’s definitely more to come from me and the PROTON, but I’m massively encouraged at the start we’ve made in Malaysia. Okay, the result isn’t what we wanted, but I’m rallying again and soon we’ll be winning again. One more thing, I want to say a big thank you to Chris and the guys at MEM for the work they did, the car was awesome, and to everybody at PROTON. There was a real buzz about the factory in Malaysia and it’s going to be a special feeling for us all when we turn this potential into rally wins.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“The car and the drivers both showed great speed and commitment on this rally. As we expected, the conditions were really tough – with temperatures running above 40 degrees, but the guys got on with the job. We set plenty of fastest times, but that win just eluded us. It’s disappointing, bitterly disappointing, we badly wanted this win, but the perfect story for PROTON wasn’t to be. However, what we did this weekend was show just what a fantastic car we have with the Satria – and what a great pair of drivers. Alister had the event under control, he was managing a good lead this morning when the engine problem occurred at the start line of the third stage. And Chris showed just what he was capable of with fastest times and a great drive on his first outing in the car. Chris would certainly have been challenging for the victory had it not been for his electrical problem on the first stage. Now, we move on and we prepare for round two, where PROTON will be hungrier than ever for victory.”

Event data:
Round: 1/7, FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Kota Tinggi, Johor
Stages: 16
Liaison distance: 353.14km
Competitive distance: 236.42km
Total distance: 589.56km
Conditions: 40 degrees, overcast and heavy rain
Day one leader: Alister McRae (GB) PROTON
Winner: Katsu Taguchi (J) Mitsubishi

Next event:
Rally Hokkaido, Japan (May 22/23)
Based in Makubetsu on Hokkaido, the most northerly of Japan’s islands, the second round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship is quite a different event from the opener. The stages are generally faster than the tight and twisty tests used in Malaysia this weekend. The temperature will be lower and the road surface more akin to a European forest rally. Chris Atkinson has driven on these roads previously, contesting the event when it ran as Japan’s round of the World Rally Championship, but Alister McRae has never competed in Hokkaido before.

 • 

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