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RACMSA Rally of Scotland Review
Oct 18, 2010

The PROTON R3 Rally Team struggled to match the pace which carried them to second overall on the Rally of Scotland last season, with both factory cars hitting trouble on the Perth-based penultimate round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. The third, semi-works car of 18-year-old Tom Cave was on-course to finish an untroubled fourth overall when the young Welshman collected two punctures on the final morning.

After the rain-hit Rally of Scotland last season, this year’s event turned out to be dry – and an absolute classic. The stunning Highland scenery played perfect host to a fascinating round of the IRC, with the Proton’s providing plenty of entertainment for the thousands of fans who had turned out to enjoy rallying at its very best.

Unfortunately for Alister McRae – the Scottish hero who most of the spectators had turned out to cheer – he suffered a freak electrical failure in the third stage. Going into the Craigvinean test, north of Perth, McRae had been ahead of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion – and winner of two 2010 IRC rounds – Juho Hanninen (Skoda). McRae’s hopes of mixing it with the champion and his IRC colleagues were dashed when his Satria Neo S2000 was halted with an alternator problem. Alister did his best to fix the problem, but retired later in the day.

McRae’s team-mate Keith Cronin arrived on a high, having recently been crowned British Rally Champion for the second successive season. A puncture on the first stage stymied his attack first thing on Saturday morning and a problem with the intercom system in his co-driver’s crash helmet meant he couldn’t hear the vital pace notes for the next two stages. Having endured a tough morning, Keith was ready to put on the kind of charge he’d managed on the Barum Rally Zlin, his last event with Proton, when he set incredible times on the re-run of the opening loop.

Concerned by a steering problem in the afternoon’s first stage, Keith got out and looked under the bonnet. Unfortunately, he forgot to replace the bonnet retaining pins. As soon as he got up to speed, the bonnet flew up. His co-driver Barry McNulty got out to replace the bonnet and, in the process, dropped his timecards – the official documentation which allow the organisers to keep a check on the cars. Without the necessary paperwork to continue, Keith was, unfortunately, forced out of the rally.

Quotes:

Alister McRae said:
“It was great to get back out in the Scottish stages and to see the fans and the Saltires they were waving. I always get a real buzz when I’m competing on home territory. It was just a shame things didn’t go our way on this event. We really didn’t manage to get into our stride, which meant we weren’t able to show what we could do – and what the car is capable of. For sure, the PROTON has come on since we drove it last: the engine and the dampers are working very, very well. This car still has a great deal of potential and pace to come.”

Keith Cronin said:
“This was a very frustrating event for me. It was only my second time driving an S2000 car on gravel – and my entry on Rally of Scotland really didn’t last very long last year. I came here looking for experience and for time in the car and I haven’t really managed that. We weren’t able to get into the groove at all on Saturday morning, the puncture spoiled it in Craigvinean and then I just couldn’t hear what Barry was saying to me in the next two. On the whole, it’s been a tough event, but one where I have seen the potential of the car again.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“After the result we achieved [second overall] with Alister last year, we had high hopes for this event again this year, but those hopes were hit by a bizarre problem on the alternator – not something we’ve ever had a problem with before that. We simply haven’t been able to get into our stride on this event, we haven’t found the kind of rhythm which we need to challenge. That’s the same for Keith [Cronin]. Both drivers had a very good test with no problems, but we haven’t been able to recreate that pace on the event. Keith struggled with a puncture and some intercom problems in the morning, but then retired from the rally in fairly odd circumstances. The positive is the way the drivers felt about the car when they were running, both Alister and Keith are pleased with the developments which have come on the engine and the dampers. Tom [Cave] showed great pace and was on for a superb result, only to be foiled by punctures on the second day. Tom could have been fourth overall, which would have been an exceptional result for a driver of his age and experience in such exalted company.”

Event data:
Round: 11/12, Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Based: Perth, Scotland
Stages: 12
Liaison distance: 617.09km
Competitive distance: 196.92km
Total distance: 814.01km
Conditions: 11 degrees, sunny/overcast
Day one leader: Juho Hanninen (FIN) Skoda
Winner: Juho Hanninen (FIN) Skoda

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