Kamis, 30 Juni 2011

PROTON Completes Gruelling Geko Ypress Rally In Belgium 2011

PROTON completed a grueling Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium and in the process claimed an important breakthrough in the development of the Satria Neo S2000 which had clearly demonstrated strong pace to match the world’s best manufacturers in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC).

In a rally so treacherous, and competing in extremely wet, cold and slippery conditions, PROTON’s P-G Andersson finished 19th from a field of only 61 of the 124 cars that started the two-day 18-stage rally. The rally had also attracted the biggest entry of 31 S2000 cars.

Inflicting serious casualty, the Geko Ypress Rally claimed the likes of many top drivers, including local favourite Thiery Neuville who did not even reach the finish of the first special stage. Restarting under Super Rally Format, Neuville again retired on the first special stage of the second and final day. Another casualty was Skoda driver Andreas Mikkelsen who crashed in the first corner of the very first special stage on Day 1. IRC favourite and Skoda driver Jan Kopecky’s rally meanwhile, came to an end even before the start of the event when a crash during shakedown the day before injured his co-driver Petr Stary.

PROTON driver’s Giandomenico Basso and P-G Andersson had both come within nine seconds of creeping into the top 10 finishers at the rally which was dominated by Skoda and Peugeot, before being struck by misfortune.

Pushing hard for to get into the top 10 after finishing the first day of rallying in 11th and just nine seconds adrift, Basso’s rally came to an end in SS7 when he hit a low brick wall which was hidden in the tall grass that put the Satria Neo S2000 into a ditch.

But all was not lost for PROTON when Andersson began to pick up his pace in the rally and shot from 18th in the opening stage (SS7) to move up to 17th and then 16th over the next two special stages (SS8 and SS9 respectively). By SS10 he was 12th and with one stage to go in SS17, the double Junior World Rally Champion had brought the Satria Neo S2000 to 11th and within 8.9 seconds of that top 10 finish.

PROTON’s valiant charge against the likes of Skoda, Peugeot, Ford, Mini and Abarth however, was dealt a cruel blow when Andersson’s final push saw him went wide 2km into the 10km final special stage (SS18). The off damaged the Satria Neo S2000’s left rear wheel but Andersson was still able to continue, losing 24 seconds in the process to eventually complete the rally in 19th.

“Despite the misfortunes and missing out on a top 10 finish, we come away from what was clearly a very tough and treacherous rally, achieving tremendous progress in terms of the development of the Satria Neo S2000. Basso’s 11th placing on the first day and Andersson’s push from 19th to 11th on the final day of rallying clearly demonstrated the car’s potential and it gave us a real competitive assessment of where we are currently in terms of development and how much more we need to do in the IRC,” said Head of PROTON Motorsports Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood.

“Although this is PROTON’s first full year in the IRC, we are certainly making valuable progress and heading in the right direction as far as development of the Satria Neo S2000 and the brand is concerned.”

The rally, which was run on 287km of competitive asphalt stages, was won by Freddy Loix in a Skoda Fabia S2000. Bryan Bouffier driving the Peugeot 207 S2000 finished second ahead of Hans Weijs in another Skoda Fabia S2000.

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