Alister hits the podium again!
Jul 18, 2011
PROTON Motorsports’ domination of this year’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship goes on. Satria Neo S2000 drivers Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae finished first and second in the APRC standings on the International Rally of Whangarei, which ended in New Zealand today.
Atkinson (Australia) has now won three from four APRC rounds this season and now holds a 21-point advantage over McRae (Great Britain) in what is looking increasingly like an all-PROTON fight for this year’s drivers’ title. The nearest non-PROTON driver is now 46 points adrift in third.
PROTON’s position at the top of the manufacturers’ standings is looking equally strong, following the Malaysian firm’s perfect one-two score on what was one of the toughest, longest and most arduous rounds of the series.
The local competition on New Zealand’s north island is tougher than anywhere else in the championship, with highly rated Kiwi Hayden Paddon providing the sternest challenge to the PROTONs.
Atkinson drove magnificently through wet conditions on yesterday’s opening leg (Saturday) to arrive at evening service with a 6.2-seconds advantage from Paddon, with McRae in the thick of the fight in third.
Atkinson’s only issue yesterday was running a harder tyre than he thought necessary, while McRae suffered a broken intercom mid-way through the second run at the event’s longest stage (SS6, Bull, 40.63km) and felt he should have taken a narrower Michelin in the morning.
Today, however, was all about Atkinson. Fastest on the first three stages of the day, the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship leader demonstrated the stunning pace he’d used to such devastating effect to win in Malaysia and New Caledonia earlier this season.
In total, Atkinson won five from eight Sunday stages to seal what he described as his most satisfying win of the season.
Even the New Zealand weather, which had been wet for the week prior to the event, improved as the Queenslander closed on victory over local ace Paddon, who had won this event three times before.
McRae’s hopes of clinching his first win of the season went south when he spun on the opener this morning and then discovered a minor water leak on the final loop of stages. After such a dominant performance the Scotsman was so far ahead of his nearest APRC competition, he could afford to ease off through the event’s final two stages and still ensure PROTON of its historic one-two on the FIA-qualifier.
Alister McRae said:
“We came here looking to take some points off Chris [Atkinson], but that hasn’t really worked out. I have to hand it to him on this event, he has driven very, very well. We had a few niggling things, like the wrong tyre, the intercom and the spin this morning, but even with a clean run I think we would have struggled to get past him. Even though we had mixed fortunes on this event, I’ve really enjoyed the rally – you always do on these roads – and we’ve shown again the good steps we’ve taken with the car. The big thing here is the one-two in APRC for PROTON, that’s a great result for us and it’s only going to help for the manufacturers’ title. As for the drivers’ title, it looks like that could be between Chris and myself. I’m certainly not about to give up, we’re still in there fighting and we go to Japan and the next round looking to get ahead of him and set up a thriller of a final round in China.”
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