DISASTER ROBS PROTON OF MAIDEN VICTORY IN S-WRC AT THE MONTE CARLO RALLY
A fire in the engine bay three special stages to the finish of the grueling five-day long Monte Carlo Rally ended a spectacular run for PROTON in the 2012 FIA Super World Rally Championship (S-WRC) and the hopes of clinching its maiden victory on its debut season in the World Rally Championship.
The fire was later traced to a fuel leak in the engine bay of the Satria Neo S2000, which forced PG Andersson into retirement in special stage 16, a 23.41km run through Moulinet-La Bollène Vésubie.
Day four of the Monte Carlo Rally consisted of four special stages which included a repeat of the morning session’s 23.41km Moulinet-La Bollène Vésubie special stage and the 18.81km Lantosque-Luceram test.
The PROTON driver had earlier completed a trouble-free drive through Moulinet-La Bollène Vésubie to tighten the grip on his lead in the S-WRC category, gaining another 8 seconds to extend his advantage to 1 minute 48 seconds over Skoda’s Kevin Abbring. Ford’s Craig Breen was a distant threat some 22 minutes behind while Frenchman Bryan Bouffier in the Peugeot 207 S2000 a further 4 minutes adrift in fourth place.
With three more special stages to go – the two repeat stages and the fifth and final day of rallying which would have been run on the 5.16km Ste Agnès-Col de la Madone stretch - Andersson was also the only S2000 car in the top 10 front runners, holding on to 9th position overall with Abbring, Breen and Bouffier placed 12th, 15th and 16th respectively.
The retirement ended what had been a spectacular drive by Andersson which saw PROTON leading the S-WRC class and outshining heavyweights Skoda, Ford and Peugeot.
“There are elements that you control and there are those that you can never prepare for, and this was precisely what we experienced today. The team, especially Andersson, is extremely devastated by this stroke of misfortune considering we were essentially already en route to claiming victory,” said Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood, the Head of PROTON Motorsports.
“Andersson took a cautious approach on the penultimate day of rallying and was even prepared to concede his ninth place overall as he did not want to be distracted from being focused on clinching victory in the S-WRC category. But this is the reality of rallying, and what makes the Monte Carlo Rally one of the toughest and most unpredictable rallies on the world championship.”
Datuk Abdul Razak and the entire team commended Andersson on an impeccable drive that saw the Satria Neo S2000 dominate the S-WRC category.
“Despite the outcome, it was an exceptional drive and definitely an eye-opening start to the season.”
Meanwhile, PROTON’s Director of Group Marketing, Branding and Motorsports John Chacko said the Satria Neo S2000’s performance in the Monte Carlo Rally had successfully given the brand and Malaysian manufacturer a valuable and tremendous boost in terms of recognition on the international arena.
“While we are in competition to win, an equally important objective is to build the brand internationally and that was precisely what was achieved in Monte Carlo and around the world when you had unsuspecting rally fans taking notice of and even cheering on a manufacturer they knew little about,” said Chacko.
“Andersson’s charge in the Satria Neo S2000 had without a doubt, made an impactful introduction for PROTON on the World Rally Championship and comparing to where we were last season in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), the rally programme has definitely taken a big step forward and this underlines the company’s commitment to becoming better.”
Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb continued to assert dominance to stretch his lead at the front of the pack and currently holds a 2 minute 41.5 seconds advantage over second placeman Dani Sordo in the Mini. Sordo however, saw his lead of more than a minute over Ford’s Petter Solberg trimmed to a mere 19 seconds with two more special stages to contest.