Rally of Scotland preview
Oct 03, 2011
The PROTON Motorsports team will look to build on its FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title-winning form, when it arrives at Rally of Scotland with local hero Alister McRae at the wheel of one of two factory Satria Neo S2000s.
McRae, who now lives in Western Australia, arrives back in his native land with a fine competitive edge and the lead of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. Four days ago, McRae was in the Far East contesting and leading Rally Hokkaido with PROTON Motorsports. McRae looked well set for his first APRC win of the year until a puncture halted his progress and cost him two minutes and his hopes of maximum APRC points. Typically, McRae hit back hard on the second day in Obihiro, slashing the gap between himself and the winner to just 8.8 seconds at the finish.
Having gone from Perth (WA, Australia) to Perth (Perthshire, Scotland) via Tokyo, McRae is looking forward to some of the toughest competition of the season. Focused on the APRC this year, this week will be the former British Rally Champion’s first IRC outing of 2011. He’s also looking forward to seeing the Saltires flying, the Haggis cooking and the stunning beauty of Scotland in the autumn.
The Rally of Scotland is the scene of PROTON’s finest hour in the IRC. In his debut season with the team, McRae placed the Satria Neo S2000 second overall on the 2009 event. Since then, the British-based team has worked through a considerable research and development programme with the car, dramatically reducing the gap to the IRC pace-setting machinery.
Joining McRae in the PROTON Motorsports team is IRC regular P-G Andersson. The Swede – a double Junior World Rally Champion – has been pleased with the ongoing development of the Satria Neo S2000 this season and he is looking forward to getting the car into the Scottish forests.
The second half of the IRC season has a heavy asphalt bias and, having been born and brought up on Scandinavian roads shorn of grip either by the winter snows or their loose-surface nature, Andersson’s pace is bound to be a feature of Scotland’s biggest motorsport occasion this week.
And, for the team itself, the Rally of Scotland represents the final leg of a gruelling timetable in which PROTON Motorsports has contested four rallies in five weeks on two continents. Having just arrived back from Japan, the team will relish the day-long road-trip back to base in Bakewell – with not a check-in desk or plate of aeroplane food in sight.
Prior to Rally of Scotland, PROTON Motorsports will spend Wednesday testing in forests close to the town of Callander to fine-tune the set-up ahead of the Stirling Castle start on Friday (October 7) evening.
Alister McRae said:
_“It’s always nice to come home to compete again. And it’s good to come home with plenty of competitive seat time in the Satria Neo. Rally Hokkaido was a bit of a double-edged sword, really. We were really disappointed not to win the event, we had the speed with the car until we got the puncture, but then we finished second in APRC, which was enough for us to lead the championship with one round to go.
“But now, the focus is on Scotland. We had a good finish here a couple of years ago, when we finished second in the PROTON. The competition is going to be really tough, there’s a good, quality entry for the rally.
“The new stage on the Friday night is going to be a big challenge to everybody, especially with it running in the dark. In October, it’s just possible there could be a wee bit of rain or mist around, just to really spice things up a bit. After that, it’s onto the familiar stages on Saturday and Sunday – and these really are some of the best roads in the world. I know I’m a Scotsman, so I’m possibly a wee bit biased, but Scotland’s a fantastic country and the Rally of Scotland is a great rally to come and watch.”_
P-G Andersson said:
“It’s going to be nice to get the car onto gravel, this is the surface where I have more experience of competition. We could see from the times which Giandomenico [Basso] set in Rallye Sanremo last month that the car is getting better and better. And everybody in the PROTON Motorsports team is full of confidence after a very good result in Japan last weekend. I’m sure this will be a good event this week, everybody has talked so much about these stages – I’m really looking forward to getting going in them.”
Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“Scotland is an event the team all enjoy. Having travelled a fair bit this season, it’s good for the guys to come and compete at home – and the competition will be fierce again this week. We come to this rally match-fit after clinching the drivers’ Asia-Pacific title in Japan last week. Obviously, it’s been a while since P-G was in the car on gravel, but he’ll have a good opportunity to get some valuable set-up work done at the test on Wednesday. We’re really pleased with the way the development of the car is going now and we’ve shown that we’ve cut the gap dramatically [to our rivals] on recent asphalt rounds of the IRC.”
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