On last weekend’s round 11 of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in Scotland, fresh from the success of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) in Japan, team Proton Motorsports is on high hopes in achieving better positions with the Satria Neo S2000. Alister McRae was choosen to take over Giandomenico Basso’s racing seat for his home rally. PG Andersson meanwhile came back after being replaced by Chris Atkinson from the previous IRC round.
From the start, team Proton has shown their pace by clinching top 10 positions, with PG Andersson finishing as high as forth, and only mere seconds from the leading car. However, bad luck hit the team, yet again with Alister McRae forced to retire in day 1 due to damage on the oil sump after Alister’s car hit a rock.
It wasn’t that bad in day 2 when PG Andersson still in the top 5, only to hit by another electrical problem that haunted the Satria Neo S2000 yet again. His car failed to start on time, causing him to hit with time penalties hence dropping him into 12th. Being a former double Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) driver, he fought valiantly in the remaining stages on day 3, but unfortunately the car gave up on him when a broken drive shaft damaged the crank sensor which stopped the engine. The rally was won by Andreas Mikkelsen of Skoda.
Proton has also decided not to compete on the final round of IRC in Cyrus in order to focus their title challenge in the APRC. Which is a good thing since; 1. They going pretty south in IRC, so it’s best to avoid embarrassment; 2. They have very positive chance to win the manufacturer’s title; and 3. They have already taken the driver’s title with either Alister or Chris.
However, I feel nothing but sorry for PG Andersson, the former two time JWRC champion who has a frustrating and miserable time with Proton in IRC. After Suzuki pulled out from the WRC in 2009, he was without a drive and was thought signing with a manufacturer team like Proton is IRC will resurrect his rally career. But he has scored no points and only finished once, and most of his rallies ended in retirement. I won’t be surprise to see him leaving team Proton by the end of 2011.
Despite 2 years of rallying in Europe and Asia, the Satria Neo S2000 is plagued with reliability issues from mechanical and electrical. I’m sorry to say despite the car’s good looks and brilliant handling, this car’s engine and electrical parts are like made of paper. By right this should be sorted out after at most a year of rallying. Also, after 2 years the car is still not competitive enough to compete with the Skoda Fabia S2000 and Peugeot 207 S2000.
However, back in the APRC, the simpler and less powerful Proton Satria Neo prepared by Cusco and using Proton’s own Campro engines were much reliable and managed to finish and win in all rallies it competes like how Akira Bamba and Karamjit Singh showed. Disappointments aside, we will cover the final round of APRC in China and see if Proton overcomes their failure in IRC to truimph the APRC.