Proton had a promising start in the New Caledonia rally when PG Andersson lead Chris Atkinson by 4.3s while team mate Alister McRae suffered from a puncture and retired for that day. With McRae out of the picture, Proton misery continued during the second day when PG Andersson suffered from engine mishap where his Proton Satria Neo S2000 gradually losing power. However, superb job by MEM crew witnesssed them fitting a new cylinder head gasket to the ailing car in a record time, enabling Andersson to salvage third place at the end of Day 2. While Proton stumbled, MRF Team of Chris Atkinson flourished to finish first, ahead of team mate Gaurav Gill. Atkinson lead however was not without problem, as he also suffered a puncture in the final stage, cutting down his lead to 40seconds.
On the Day 3, Andersson engine had died completely, thanks to the Saturday drama. Skoda's Atkinson pace was blistering on Day 3, eclipsing his team mate by almost two minutes. However, his Skoda stopped in the middle of the stage apparently due to the water crossing, same issued that plagued Andersson's Proton. Gaurav Gill in the sister Skoda immediately capitalized on his team mate misfortune. When Atkinson finally get going again, his team mate was 5 minutes in front. They hold station that way, finished ahead of Brian Green EVO IX by 10 minutes. More after the jump.
Rally New Caledonia was contested over a competitive distance of 252.82km covering 19 special stages.
"We had hoped for a repeat of last year's double podium results in New Caledonia but the reality of rallying is such that all the hard work and preparation is never a guarantee of a strong finish," said Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood, the Head of PROTON Motorsports.
"Having said this we take back some consolation in the fact that the Satria Neo S2000 is at its most competitive form in the hands of both McRae and Andersson having set a blistering pace at the head of the competition."
Meanwhile, PROTON's Director of Group Marketing, Branding and Motorsport John D. Chacko said the Satria Neo S2000's performance in New Caledonia earned the team renewed admiration and respect.
"The fighting spirit of the two drivers clearly outweighed the misfortunes we endured in New Caledonia and this only goes towards strengthening our resolve as we focus on the remaining rounds in the championship. This without a doubt, shows PROTON’s continued perseverance and commitment to be better."
Top 3 results as below:
1. Gaurav Gill/Glenn Macneall, Skoda Fabia, (Team MRF);
2. Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot, Skoda Fabia, (Team MRF), +4:52.2;
3. Brian Green/Fleur Pederson, Mitsubishi Evo IX, (Brian Green Motorsport), +10:53.5