Round three of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) will move to the 2012 International Rally of Queensland this weekend with PROTON Motorsports fielding an assault in both the overall and two-wheel drive (2WD) categories.
Leading the team’s overall challenge will be the pair of defending APRC championship Alister McRae and Swedish driver PG Andersson on board the Satria Neo S2000.
McRae returns to the grueling Australian rally having finished fourth last year, while for Andersson, this weekend’s three-day event will be his first time out down under after an inspiring start to his APRC debut.
Rally Queensland will be run over a total distance of 863km consisting of 19 special stages. The longest special stage is some 33.25km while the shortest measures just 2km.
“With two rounds of the APRC contested, we have endured nothing short of a challenging start to the season. While the Proton Satria Neo S2000 has clearly demonstrated it possesses the pace and reliability, we have been rather unfortunate with punctures as was the case in the Rallies of Whangarei and New Caledonia,” said Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood, the head of PROTON Motorsports.
PROTON had clinched second place with Andersson in Rally Whangarei but despite both Andersson and McRae’s demonstrating incredible pace in the Satria Neo S2000, did not go on to secure an overall position in New Caledonia as a result of retirements.
“We finished fourth in the Rally of Queensland last year, again as a result of a difficult first few days. It’s a very tough event and one that will require not only preparation and pace, but good fortune as well,” said Datuk Abdul Razak.
“Having said this, PROTON did however, enjoy a triumphant rally with its 1600cc Proton Satria Neo two-wheel drive cars in Australia last year, clinching first and second places in the 2WD category, This year, we’re back with three entries and will be gunning for even better results.”
Out to defend his title in Australia will be reigning 2WD APRC champion Karamjit Singh and defending APRC Junior champion Akira Bamba in the PROTON Cusco Rally Team 1600cc Satria Neos. The pair will be joined by a third driver, Kenneth Koh.
PROTON has so far enjoyed a brilliant start in its 2012 2WD campaign, when it clinched the top three places in the opening round of the APRC in New Zealand in April. Karamjit won the class ahead of another Proton car privateer with Koh finishing third. Koh, in only his first international rally, also clinched second place in the APRC Junior category.
“It’s been a whirlwind start to the year so far with mixed results and emotions. This is the unpredictable nature of rallying. Proton however, is committed to do better and will preserve for excellence in Queensland.”
“By virtue of being defending champions in both the overall and 2WD categories, we accept the fact that the competition this season will be even stiffer.”
“As we advance to round three in the championship, we are very clear in our objectives and the preparation ahead of the rally for both the S2000 and 2WD teams reflects on fulfilling these goals,” said PROTON’s Director of Group Marketing, Branding and Motorsports John Chacko.
Meanwhile, PROTON celebrated an early “victory” when the Satria Neo S2000 piloted by Andersson won a sprint test against a helicopter. The event was organised for the second year running in promoting Rally Queensland.