China Rally Longyou preview
Oct 31, 2011
In a land first discovered 2,233 years ago, PROTON Motorsports will attempt to carve its own piece of Asia-Pacific history next week, starting China Rally Longyou with an eye to an impressive collection of silverware.
PROTON driver Chris Atkinson has already collected the Pacific Cup courtesy of his three wins from five starts earlier this year. Atkinson’s team-mate Alister McRae is confident of the Asia Cup, while PROTON is well-set to take the Team Trophy. The FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Manufacturers’ championship still hangs in the balance and, while PROTON continues to lead the series, it faces another significant challenge on the mountain roads south of Shanghai.
The only certainty next week is that either Atkinson or McRae will be crowned FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion, ensuring the region’s highest honour will be bestowed on a driver from the Malaysian manufacturer for the first time since Karamjit Singh collected his third title in four years in 2004.
Ahead of China Rally Longyou, Scotsman McRae has a seven-point lead over his Australian team-mate Atkinson with 39 points still available next week.
This sixth and final round of the APRC is one of the toughest of the year, with the crews racing through bamboo forests, up and over mountains and across roads alternating from concrete to loose gravel.
While PROTON Motorsports can’t rival the incredible history of the Chinese dynasties, it does have a strong recent history on the nation’s biggest rally of the season, having finished one-two on China Rally Longyou in 2010. McRae won the event from Atkinson.
Outscoring Atkinson on the last round of the series in Japan, McRae moved past Atkinson to lead the APRC drivers’ standings for the first time this year. With one round to go, both PROTON stars are desperate to land their first FIA title – but both are mindful of PROTON’s desire to win the makes’ race and the need to lift all five of the APRC awards they have been in pursuit of since the start of the year.
China Rally Longyou starts with a superspecial stage on Friday (November 4) evening.
Alister McRae said:
“This is a very, very difficult rally. Both Chris [Atkinson] and I suffered punctures on this event last year, so the priority has to be to avoid those. China is a tough event, which can be quite hard on the car. Some parts of the route are used quite a few times in different configurations, so sections of road can be quite cut up. One stage includes around 40 hairpins in 18 kilometres – essentially we go up one side of the mountain and down the other. I won the APRC Formula Two title in 1999, sharing it with my team-mate Kenneth Eriksson, so it would be great to lift the overall title this time around. The priority is to take the manufacturers’ title for PROTON, but with so few points separating Chris and myself in the drivers’ championship, it’s going to be an interesting battle between us for the drivers’ title.”
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