Proton Launch 2011 Season

The Proton R3 Malaysia Rally Team will compete the full 2011 season of both the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) and the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), as announced at the launch of the team’s 2011 campaign by Youth and Sports Minister Dato’ Ahmad Shabery Cheek hours ago.

Two-time Junior World Rally champion Per-Gunnar Andersson will join familiar faces Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae as pilots of the Satria Neo Super 2000 rally car. P-G, who hails from Sweden, has agreed to drive for Proton for the IRC’s season opening Monte Carlo Rally later this month (18-22 January).

“For now, we are with Proton for Monte, but we will be talking straight after the rally to see what is possible for the future. I’m very happy to join a team which is looking forward to a good future in the sport,” the former Suzuki driver previously said. Team officials confirm that negotiations to secure his services for the entire IRC season is ongoing.

Proton’s IRC challenge will be led by former Subaru WRC man Chris Atkinson while Alister McRae leads the team’s APRC charge, which starts with the Malaysian Rally in April. Aussie Atkinson is relishing the unique challenge posed by the historic Rallye Monte Carlo, which is 100 years old this year.

“Starting the season with the Monte is awesome. As a rally driver, this is the traditional place where we always start our year. I’ve always gone well on the event, but it is really tough. Running high in the Alps in January, you never know what’s really coming around the next corner: it could be dry asphalt, wet asphalt, snow or ice. It’s a massive challenge for the team and the driver, with one of the most important aspects being to get the tyres right,” he said.

On the topic of tyres, the BF Goodrich rubber for the Neo S2000 has been revised for 2011 with stronger sidewalls. This is from experience gathered from last season, where the APRC’s rough terrain in particular caused several punctures. The Renault sourced engine is now pushing out 305 hp, up from the previous 278 horses.

The team ended 2010 on a high, scoring a 1-2 finish at the APRC’s season ending Rally of China, in addition to a second place finish at Rally New Zealand. They are targeting higher this year, and Proton MD Dato’ Syed Zainal made it clear at the event that they’re expecting the team to secure podium finishes in both the IRC and APRC, and that “anything less isn’t acceptable”.

Another piece of good news is that two new sponsors – Yasmin Group and Sime Kansai Paints – are now on board, contributing RM500k each to the cause. We will be following the Proton R3 Malaysia Rally Team closely this season, so stay tuned!