PROTON Wales & Hokkaido Review

PROTON Wales & Hokkaido ReviewFrom Proton Press [ 16/09/2012 ].
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PROTON Motorsports team driver P-G Andersson (Sweden) extended his FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship lead on the latest round of the series – Rally GB – which ended in Cardiff this afternoon.   There was more to celebrate for the Malaysian manufacturer as Welshman Tom Cave, a factory squad rookie at the highest level of Super 2000 rallying, collected his best ever finish in the WRC. The 20-year-old was second in the SWRC standings after three tough days of rallying through the world-renowned British stages.

The event started from the north coast of Wales on Thursday evening, where a big crowd gathered to wave Andersson, the SWRC series leader and winner of the last round in Finland over the ramp in Llandudno. The opening day took crews into mid-Wales, where a remote service in Newtown offered limited opportunity for tending to the cars before a repeated loop of stages on the road south to an overnight halt in Cardiff – Friday was literally a north-south journey through the principality.

From the start of the event, both Andersson and Cave were at the front of the field, before a broken track control arm ruled the Swede out of day one. The two-time FIA Junior World Rally Champion bounced back with a string of great stages through Saturday – only out of the top-three times on one occasion. Andersson extends his SWRC lead with sixth place, but just missed out on fifth after clipping a log and damaging the PROTON’s power steering on the final loop.

Andersson is now looking forward to the final two – largely asphalt – rounds of the SWRC in France and Spain.

Having won the Rally of Thailand with PROTON earlier in the year Cave was no stranger to the inside of the works Satria-Neo S2000. And he knew the roads around his home pretty well too. Selecting hard compound tyres on Saturday morning stymied his attack slightly, but with a comfortable second position in his sights, Cave drove a sensible Sunday to deliver his career high.

Away from Cardiff and the final all-gravel SWRC round of the season, PROTON was also contesting the Hokkaido Rally, where Juha Salo was poised to take his first win on his first outing with the team in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship when he damaged a wheel in the closing stages of the Obihiro-based event. Salo’s team-mate Alister McRae had also been fighting at the front of the field before he was sidelined on Sunday morning.

Quotes:

P-G Andersson said:
“The objective was to come here and extend our lead in the SWRC standings and we have done that. This was a tough event though – it’s never an easy one. There was some talk that running two months earlier than it normally did, Rally GB might not be quite so difficult, but it was; the grip level is always changing and it’s so easy to get caught out. I hadn’t competed here since 2008, so I wasn’t really remembering all of the stages so well and some of the kilometres were new for me. The car felt good and OK, we didn’t have the perfect event that we had been hoping for, but we are still in the front of the fight as we go to the asphalt rallies. We tested in France just before the start of the rally in Wales and the car felt very good. We are looking forward to France now, the fight is really good for this year’s championship. We are ahead now and we have to make sure the story is the same after two more rallies.”?

Tom Cave said:
“I’m so happy with this result, for Proton, for myself and Craig [Parry, co-driver] and for Wales. It's been a very tricky weekend but I am so glad that we were able to get to the finish and get a good result to justify the faith that PROTON Motorsport put in us. The conditions have been very difficult today (Sunday). The first loop of stages was really slippery with lots of rocks in the road and it was raining on the second, so I knew it would be very easy to make a mistake. My brief for the weekend was to bring the car to the finish as the absolute priority and get as good a result as possible, so second in SWRC and 14th overall is fantastic. “The Proton Satria Neo S2000 has not missed a beat all weekend and the team worked very hard to allow us to take this result. This weekend feels just as good, if not better, than the win we took for Proton in Thailand in the summer. I’m delighted that we were able to deliver the result that was required and am very grateful to Proton and Chris [Mellors MEM team principal] for the opportunity.”

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said:
“As P-G [Andersson] says, we have achieved the primary aim in Wales: to leave Cardiff in the lead of the championship, which is good news. Before the event I had talked about Tom Cave looking for a podium result on his home round of the championship and that’s just what he did. He drove a very good rally: he was fast and able to bring the car to the finish without any issues. It’s been something of a mixed weekend for the team. We are delighted to still be leading the fight for the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, but it’s a shame we couldn’t back that up with another win in the APRC in Japan. We arrived in Hokkaido on the back of victory in Malaysia, with the team in a confident mood, but it wasn’t to be. We now go to the Rallye de France in Alsace for the first time in SWRC next month and to China for the final APRC round of the season later in October.”