Apr 3, 2011
3 April 2011, JOHOR BAHRU - The Proton Team were just unbeatable at the Malaysian Rally 2011 Championship at the Tai Tak Estate in Kota Tinggi, Johor.
Led by Chris Atkinson in a Proton Satria Neo 2000, the car simply out-powered and outclassed the field to win the opening leg of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
And to add to the celebration, another Proton entrant, Alister McRae, came in third.
In fact the signs were all very clear that the Proton team meant business when they both finished in a similar position after the opening stage on Saturday.
Their domination continued into the second day with yet another round of flawless performance, both from the car and driver.
Atkinson and his co-driver Stephane Prevot from Belgium finished the race over the two-stages in a total time of 3hrs: 14:49.3secs with India's Guarav Gill and his Mitsubishi Lancer coming home second in 3hrs: 16:35.9secs. Third is McRae and co-driver Bill Hayes in 3hrs:23:37.5secs.
The Proton team's victory in Malaysia has come at a time when there were doubts whether the car would hold up under tough conditions, given the bitter experience of last season's outing when both the cars developed mechanical problems and suffered an early knock-out.
But things went well in the end and Atkinson was full of praise for the car at the winners' Press conference here today.
"We have taken a big step forward with our performances here today. The new suspension system and the development work done on the engine have paid off.
It's a great start to the year as we look forward to the rest of the round at the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
"The secret to our success here for Alister (McRae) and me was the way the car
responded. That's why we could win by such a big margin," said Atkinson.
China's Fan Fan, who is making a return to the rallying scene here after a five-year absence won the opening leg of the Malaysian Rally Championship today with a flawless performance over the two stages.
He clocked a total time of 3hrs: 44.30.6secs in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo to push the defending champion Muhammad Rafiq Udahaya in a Subaru Impreza into second place on a total time of 3hrs: 47:20.6secs with Japan's Aji Kim in a Proton Satria Neo coming in third in 3hrs 58:51.6secs.
"I guess knowing the conditions in Malaysia having competed in the 2004 and 2005 series help me quite a bit. It's always tough rallying in Malaysia," said the Beijing based Fan Fan.
For Muhammad Rafiq, the fight continues. More so after the two local challengers, Karamjit Singh, who finished second overall last year and Saladin Mazlan, the 2009 runner-up failed to get their challenge off the ground.
Both the GSR Pennzoil team drivers suffered mechanical problems midway through and they know they need to do better at the next leg in Kangar at the end of May.