PROTON’s PG Andersson drove a commendable Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) debut to clinch second overall in the Brother International Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand.
Fighting back to reduce an overnight deficit of more than a minute as a result of a puncture, Andersson set fastest time on five of the final day’s eight Special Stages to finish second overall, 28 seconds behind the Skoda Fabia S2000 of Chris Atkinson. A further two minutes behind was India’s Gaurav Gill in third place.
PROTON team mate and defending APRC champion Alister McRae meanwhile, finished fourth in the APRC class and fourth overall after enduring a difficult start to the rally in which by virtue of starting first played the role of road sweeper for the rest of the participants.
Andersson’s APRC campaign on the other hand had gotten off to a brilliant start when he was fastest through Special Stage 1, but a puncture in the next stage lost him a minute and a half, demoting him to fourth in the APRC category. He however, fought back valiantly to finish the day in second place among the APRC contenders.
Rally of Whangarei covered a total of 16 Special Stages over a competitive distance of 283.28km.
PROTON also enjoyed a clean sweep of the top three placings in the 2WD category with defending APRC 2WD champion Karamjit Singh taking top honours ahead of privateer Mike Young in another 1600cc Satria Neo and PROTON’s newly-signed young driver Kenneth Koh. Koh, in only his first international rally, also clinched second place in the APRC Junior category behind Young.
“To have both Andersson and McRae on the podium (in the APRC class) in the presence of intense competition, especially from the field of experienced local drivers, is an encouraging start to the season. We have the pace but in this case, we were a bit unfortunate to have been held back by punctures,” said Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood, the Head of PROTON Motorsports.
“It’s going to be a close fight for this year’s APRC Championship, but I have full confidence in the team with Andersson and McRae to defend the APRC title which we won in 2011.
“PROTON’s performance is the 2WD class however, has indeed been a huge step forward. The participation of three privately-run 1600cc Satria Neos meanwhile, is a great boost for PROTON and in recognition of the vehicle’s competitiveness.”
PROTON exerted absolute dominance in the APRC in 2011 to become the first car manufacturer to win all eight major individual titles in the APRC which included: the APRC driver’s title; APRC manufacturer’s title; the APRC Teams Trophy; the FIA Asia Cup driver’s title; the FIA Pacific Cup driver’s title; the manufacturer’s title in the FIA APRC Rally Cup for two-wheel drive category; the APRC Rally Cup driver’s title; and FIA APRC Junior Cup driver’s title.
Meanwhile, PROTON’s Director of Group Marketing, Branding and Motorsports John D. Chacko said the participation of privately-run 1600cc Satria Neos underlined a strong and growing acceptance for the brand internationally.
“This is a tremendous boost in support of PROTON’s aspirations of becoming a competitive global car manufacturer. As a manufacturer we are committed to be better and the results in New Zealand certainly goes a long way in proving this point.”