Defending FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champions PROTON Motorsports will be chasing a third successive APRC win on the China Longyou Rally this week.
The Malaysian manufacturer will be led into the final encounter of the 2012 APRC series by Alister McRae. The Scot secured the APRC drivers’ title on this event last year, ensuring PROTON enjoyed a double celebration after also winning the manufacturers’ award.McRae will start as favourite in China, looking to complete a hat-trick of victories in one of the toughest rounds of the series.McRae also arrives at the start of the event full of confidence following his 16-minute victory on the Malaysian Rally, earlier this year. McRae has finished first or second on two of the last three rounds of the championship.
Joining the team’s Scottish star in China will be Finland’s Juha Salo. Salo is also an experienced hand on the Longyou stages, having competed there previously in 2007 and 2008.The China Rally Longyou runs across a variety of different stages and surfaces, ranging from broken concrete to the slippery roads cutting through the region’s bamboo forests. Longyou is in the Zhejiang Province, approximately 400 kilometres away from Shanghai, China’s largest city.
The event gets underway with shakedown at the Shiyuan Motorsports complex on Thursday (October 25), with a ceremonial start in Rong Chang Square the following morning. The event finishes on Sunday afternoon (October 28).
Alister McRae said: “The China Rally is one where I have always gone well and, of course, there are good memories of taking the title there last year. But it’s a really tricky event. The grip level is changing all the time and the stages are really quite technical, so a good recce is absolutely vital. Obviously we won in Malaysia, so it would be great if we could end the year with another victory for PROTON. I think it’s pretty clear the car has been getting quicker and quicker as the season has progressed and we’re looking to show what the Satria can do again this weekend.”
Juha Salo said: “Driving with the PROTON Motorsports team has been fantastic and the more time I have been spending in the car, the more I have been feeling like I am at home. Definitely, it took me more time than I thought it would to get used to this new style of rally car – after so long in the Group N machine – but I feel I am ready now. And, like Alister, I like the competition in China, it’s a very interesting rally and country.”
MEM team principal Chris Mellors said: “This is a big event for PROTON Motorsports – but it’s one where we do have a very good record. Alister always seems to excel on these kind of roads, the twisty nature of the stages suit his neat and tidy style; he’s great on these kind of technical roads. There has been a really big battle this year between us and the rest of the teams in APRC and that’s definitely going to continue into the final round. There’s no doubt we’re going to have a fight on our hands, but we’re ready for it – we want to defend our championship successfully. The cars are working well, the guys are all on form and PROTON Motorsports is looking to end the APRC season on a high.”
Event data Round: 6/6, FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Based: Longyou, China
Stages: 13 Surface: mixed
Liaison distance: 414.68km
Competitive distance: 230.96km
Total distance: 645.64km
Shakedown: Shi Yuan, 1530 Thursday October 25
Photos: Mike Young and Ross Hyde