PROTON Motorsports dominated the opening round of the 2012 FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, winning 12 of 18 Rallye Monte-Carlo stages, before P-G Andersson retired after a day-four fire aboard his Satria-Neo S2000.
After dominating last season’s FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, the Malaysian manufacturer arrived at the start of its first World Rally Championship campaign with the Satria-Neo S2000 on a high. And PROTON’s double Junior World Rally Champion delivered immediately. Andersson was on sublime form in the French Alps this week, leading the SWRC standings from the start of the event.
Rallye Monte-Carlo began in Valence, in the south-east of France, on Wednesday (January 18) morning. The first loop of stages ran through the Drome region in cold but sunny conditions. Andersson and co-driver Emil Axelsson made a flying start, with their Satria-Neo S2000 only beaten on one of the day’s four stages. On day two, the PROTON team was perfect, scoring six from six fastest SWRC times.
With his lead nearing six minutes over his closest rival, Andersson decided to throttle back as the event moved into the second half. Despite this conservative approach, his advantage at the front of the field still moved past the seven-minute mark.
For the third day, the rally began in Valence with an exceptionally tricky run through the Vercors mountains, where the true nature of Rallye Monte-Carlo came to the fore. The stages were an incredible mix of dry and wet asphalt, snow, slush and ice. And, just to make things even tougher, the fog descended as the roads rose towards the Cols. But Andersson and his PROTON were more than a match for the conditions, once again winning each of Friday’s three stages.
Arriving in the principality of Monaco, all eyes were inland and on the famous Col de Turini test – a true legend among the stages of the World Rally Championship. With bright sunshine rather than snow and ice, the thousands of rally fans stood and cheered as Andersson and PROTON continued to dominate. Unfortunately, just as the SWRC leader was arriving at world rallying’s most famous summit for the second time, a fuel union fractured and leaked fuel, which caused an under-bonnet fire. The crew extinguished the flames but were unable to continue.
The sister Satria-Neo S2000 had already been sidelined after Giandomenico Basso crashed on the opening test of the event.
Having shown great speed and potential on the SWRC opener, the PROTON team is now eagerly awaiting round two, Rally Sweden, which begins in Karlstad on February 9.
P-G Andersson said:
“Not far into the stage, we thought we could smell fuel in the car. I thought maybe it was a leak, but a leak inside the car rather than anything more serious. Then, a couple of kilometres before we got to [Col de] Turini, we had a warning light flash in the car telling us we had low fuel pressure. About 15 seconds after that, the fire went up and it was quite a big fire to begin with. We pulled over and jumped out of the car. The fire went down quite quickly and we got the hand-held extinguisher out and put the flames down through the air vent in the bonnet. And then we watched as our seven-minute lead disappeared. Unbelievable. We had driven sensibly: you can’t say so much about the speed, we hadn’t really pushed or anything, just no risks. The result was there and we have just missed out on it. This sport can be tough, very tough, sometimes.”
Giandomenico Basso said:
“The sun came into the screen and I was momentarily distracted, I couldn’t see exactly. We slid and hit the wall with the left- ide of the car. It was a high-speed crash and the car was not able to continue, which was very disappointing for the whole team. After a good test, we had really been looking forward to this event and we should have been able to make a good result for PROTON.”
Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“Ultimately, this is a disappointing event for the team but we have to take the positives from here. We have to look at the fact that we were the fastest SWRC car throughout the event – and on top of that, P-G was taking time out of Kevin Abbring in the factory Volkswagen Motorsport entry. Obviously, Abbring is a young driver, but he’s got the full might of one of the world’s biggest car manufacturers behind him and he’s in a very well established car. And P-G was beating him while driving very conservatively. I have to say, P-G drove a brilliant rally. He wasn’t on his favoured surface and he didn’t put a mark on the car. This is hard to take for the team. After last year and our dominance of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship we’ve become accustomed to winning and we should have added a historic Rally Monte-Carlo win to our collection of silverware this week. Fact is, a fracture in a fuel union leaked fuel, which caught fire and forced the guys into retirement. The car’s not badly damaged and we will bounce back next time out in Sweden. We were the fastest in Monte Carlo and we intend to finish the job in the snow next month.”
Round: 1/8, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Based: Valence, France/Monaco, Monte Carlo
Liaison distance: 1,339.16km
Competitive distance: 433.36km
Total distance: 1,772.52km
Conditions: -6-16 degrees, mainly sunny and dry
Day one leader: P-G Andersson (SE)
Day two leader: P-G Andersson (SE)
Day three leader: P-G Andersson (SE)
Day four leader: Craig Breen (IRL)
Winner: Craig Breen (IRL)