The PROTON Motorsports team ended its 2012 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship season with a victorious double podium on the China Rally Longyou.PROTON’s reigning APRC champion Alister McRae maintained his dominance of the second half of the season, taking his second win from three rallies and his third podium from four rallies.
The Scotsman and his Satria-Neo S2000 were, once again, on stunning and pace-setting form through China this weekend. And McRae’s win was backed-up perfectly by flying Finn Juha Salo who collected his best ever finish in China with his place in the sister Satria.
The rally was, as usual, one of the toughest rounds of the Asia-Pacific season, with the crews having to deal with ever-changing grip levels on offer from stages which ran through bamboo plantations and across some of the most technically challenging concrete surfaces. But the PROTONs dealt with the terrain faster and more precisely than any other manufacturer.
Both the factory Satria-Neo S2000s ran with DMACK tyres and PROTON Motorsports was delighted to be able to partner the Chinese firm in first and third places on the most important rally in its domestic calendar. Neither the PROTONs or the DMACKs suffered any issues across the 13 stages in China, allowing McRae and his co-drover Bill Hayes to further extend their extraordinary dominance of this event.
The Scot and Australian have never been beaten in China and became the first crew ever to complete a hat-trick of wins in Longyou – a great way to round off PROTON’s season in the APRC.
PROTON Motorsports 2012 rally programme is not complete, however. The Malaysian manufacturer remains in the thick of the fight for a World Rally Championship title, in a battle which reaches its conclusion in Spain next week (Catalunya Rally, November 8-11). A third victory of the season in Catalunya will be enough to seal the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship for PROTON Motorsports driver P-G Andersson (Sweden).
Andersson is well-versed in world titles, having already lifted the silverware for the Junior World Rally Championship on two separate occasions previously. A Spanish success for the Swede would be the perfect end to a very strong season for Satria and PROTON Motorsports.
Alister McRae said: “As you can imagine, I’m delighted to win this rally again. When any driver starts an event, you start with one aim: to win. This has never been the easiest of events to compete on, the road surface is always changing and there are big rocks lying around everywhere – it would have been easy to damage the car or collect a puncture. You have to drive a very clean rally to succeed here in China and that’s what we have done. The car and
the tyres have been fantastic in some really tricky conditions. I think the stages have probably been a bit rougher here than in previous seasons, making this an even more difficult event than before – which makes it all the more satisfying to win for the third year in succession! First and third is a great result for PROTON, it shows the strength of the team.”
Juha Salo said: “Taking a podium finish on my first attempt at the China Rally with the official PROTON team was a great result for me. It’s not an easy rally to drive and the competition was really close all of the time on this event, but I had a job to do for the team and I did it – that’s all that matters for me. The Satria is a really great rally car to drive, but I think there are still some things for me to learn about driving a Super 2000 car. It’s a great end to the year for me and for the PROTON team.”
MEM team principal Chris Mellors said: “Another great team result on a tough rally. As we predicted, Alister went very, very well on this event. He knows just what’s needed to get the best out of the car under difficult conditions. He was really neat, tidy and precise through the technical stages and then really quick on the faster forested sections. This result, allied to Alister’s win in Malaysia and P-G [Andersson]’s wins in Finland and Sweden show where we’re at with the PROTON. We had some mid-season changes to the car which have really worked and made the car quicker and quicker as the year has progressed. And now we have to carry that great team morale and performance forward for one last rally of the season in Spain next month. P-G has a real chance to lift PROTON from its dominance of the Asia-Pacific scene to its first world title in S2000 rallying. We’re all very excited and seriously looking forward to the Catalunya Rally.”
Event data Round: 6/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
China Stages: 13 Surface: mixed
Liaison distance: 414.68km
Competitive distance: 230.96km
Total distance: 645.64km