International Rally of Whangarei review
Apr 02, 2012
The PROTON Motorsports team demonstrated the pace of the Satria-Neo S2000 on the International Rally of Whangarei, the opening round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, with a stage record-breaking performance from P-G Andersson on his way to fastest time on 11 from 14 gravel stages and second place on the New Zealand event.
The Swede led the event after the first stage, but dropped close to a minute and a half on the second stage with a punctured tyre. For the next two days, Andersson’s Satria-Neo S2000 raced through the stunning North Island countryside, winning stage after stage – breaking the record on the second run through Waipu Gorge – to pull one minute back on eventual winner Chris Atkinson.
Showing the sort of sublime form that carried him to two Junior World Rally Championship titles, Andersson turned in an exceptional drive to dominate the timesheets on this opening round of the defence of PROTON’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship titles. Andersson’s team-mate, reigning APRC champion Alister McRae, finished fourth. Running first on the road on the opening day of the Whangarei-based event, the Scot’s progress was hindered as he swept the loose gravel clear from the surface. McRae’s hopes of a podium were further spoiled when he suffered a left-front puncture on SS6.
After securing a big haul of points in the land of the long white cloud, PROTON Motorsports now moves on to Rally de Nouvelle Caledonie (April 27-29), where the Satria-Neo S2000s finished first and third on the Pacific Island event last season. Before then, the team will carry out more testing and development of the car that dominated the 2011 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in preparation for the latest evolution of the PROTON, which will come in the middle of the year.
Alister McRae said:
“Running first on the road was always going to be a pretty big handicap here. There was plenty of loose gravel on the surface on the first day and the rain we’d really hoped for never came. Driving in these conditions, the car slides much more as you sweep the gravel off the surface, allowing the cars behind to bite into road beneath. We had a puncture yesterday which was pretty frustrating as well; there was a small cut on the inside sidewall when we got to the finish of the stage. The car felt good all weekend and fourth place brings points for us and for the team, so it’s not been a bad way to start the season.”
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