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    Proton’s Satria Neo S2000 surged ahead to claim its third successive victory in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) ,winning the Pacific Cup and with driver Chris Atkinson finishing first outright in the International Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand.

    Three victories in four rounds of the APRC contested so far consolidate Proton’s position at the top of the 2011 APRC Manufacturer’s and Driver’s standings, with two more rounds of the championship to be run.

    Proton’s Alister McRae finished seventh overall in the rally but was second amongst the registered APRC contenders to give Proton a 1-2 finish for maximum points in the championship. He was in 3rd overall for most of the day in a battle with highly experienced Kiwi, Richard Mason who was fourth. Unfortunately, a spin in SS15, the 2nd last stage of the day dropped him to 7th.

    Proton also went on to clinch first and second places in the two-wheel drive category of the APRC championship with drivers Karamjit Singh and Akira Bamba in the Proton Cusco Rally Team 1600cc Satria Neos. Karamjit and Akira finished 4th and 5th overall in the APRC classification, 18th and 19th overall for the International Rally of Whangarei respectively from a field of 48 cars that restarted the second day of rallying. A third 1600cc Satria Neo at the hands of Indian driver Sanjay Ram finished 21st.

    For Atkinson, victory in New Zealand was his third after Malaysia and New Caledonia. The Australian and former World Rally Championship (WRC) driver ran a trouble-free rally over the final day’s eight special stages contested against the backdrop of intermittent rain, setting fastest times on five special stages to seal victory for Proton 12.4 seconds ahead of local favourite Hayden Paddon in a Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

    Chasing Atkinson to reduce a 6.2-second overnight lead, Paddon went off the road near the end of the second special stage, bending a steering arm. Atkinson maintained great consistency throughout the two-day event and had even gone on to set a new record in the 10.99km special stage 14 with a time of 6 minutes 48.5 seconds, bettering the previous record held by Paddon by five seconds.

    “Proton finished second here last year and to win this time round reflects on the amount of work that has gone into developing a rally-winning car,” said Atkinson who seized the lead in the rally from the third special stage of the first day. “The Proton Satria Neo S2000 was trouble free all weekend and I didn’t have to do much with the setup, with tyre choices deciding the day.” “It wasn’t an easy rally though with Hayden Paddon putting lots of pressure on me all weekend and we’re now looking forward to Hokkaido, Japan.” He added.

    While the stages were generally fast and smooth flowing, the cold and wet conditions did provide a degree of challenge to drivers who were forced to contend with puddles and slippery patches. Among those who retired from the rally were the Team MRF’s and defending APRC champion Katsuhiko Taguchi and team mate Gaurav Gill, and Pertamina Cusco Racing’s Rifat Sungkar, all three driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.

    “This has been a fantastic result for Proton and a further testimony to the Satria Neo S2000’s coming of age in international rallying. Tremendous effort has gone into the development of the car and it’s incredibly rewarding to see the hard work beginning to pay huge dividends,” said Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood, the Head of Proton Motorsports.

    “What has been equally commendable is the performance of the 1600cc Satria Neo in only its first year of competition. The Satria Neo’s competitiveness is underlined in New Zealand with the first and second placings in the two-wheel drive category.”

    Round five of the APRC moves to the Rally of Hokkaido in Japan in September with the final round being the China Rally in November.

    Source: Proton Media Centre

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