PROTON Catalunya Preview

PROTON Catalunya PreviewFrom Proton Press [ 05/11/2012 ].
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PROTON Motorsports driver P-G Andersson knows Super 2000 victory on next week’s Catalunya Rally will be enough for him to secure a third world championship title – and a first SWRC win with the Malaysian manufacturer.

World championship glory is nothing new to PROTON or Andersson. The Malaysian firm conquered the PWRC title with Karamjit Singh in 2002, while P-G won the Junior World Rally Championship in 2004 and 2007.

Andersson and his PROTON Satria-Neo S2000 have been among the SWRC pacesetters throughout the season, with the Swede leading the series for much of 2012. And now, the championship battle goes down to the wire on the asphalt and gravel stages inland from the event’s base in Salou. The event starts next Friday (November 9) and finishes three days later and with the champion crowned in the middle of the coastal resort.

Next week’s rally will be the seventh and final round of PROTON Motorsport’s 2012 SWRC programme. With two victories and podium results on five of the six rallies contested this year, Andersson and PROTON are in confident mood ahead of the Catalunya Rally.

The event itself is unique in this year’s championship, in that it is the only round which runs significant gravel and asphalt mileage. The opening day of the rally runs largely on the loose on the event’s most westerly roads, but the weekend is all about the asphalt. A new innovation for this season will be a Friday night stage through the streets of Salou – a test bound to be a big hit with the vast crowds of Spanish motorsport fans who regularly turn out for their round of the World Rally Championship.

This year’s Catalunya Rally has moved back by two weeks and runs as the final round of not only the SWRC, but also the main World Rally Championship as well. The shift in date could bring more changeable weather as the event winds its way into the hills of Tarragona.

Whatever the weather, PROTON Motorsports will be ready for the conditions, having carried out extensive asphalt and gravel testing in preparation for the event – with the team also running a final set-up check for the two factory Satria-Neo S2000s on Monday (November 5) next week.

Joining Andersson for the final SWRC round of the season is one of the rallying world’s hottest young prospects: Alastair Fisher. The 24-year-old has been one of the fastest drivers in the WRC Academy for the last two seasons and – after campaigning S2000 machinery on previous international rallies – should be able to slot straight into the PROTON.

Quotes:

P-G Andersson said:
“I haven’t been to Catalunya for a few years and I haven’t been since the organisers were including the gravel stages, so this will be a new experience for me. But I have good memories of the event – we have won the Junior World Rally Championship category there before [in 2007] and we need to win the Super 2000 category next week; the only way to think is to win the event for us to take the title. The car feels good, we know how good it is on gravel and we have shown some real speed on the asphalt as well. It’s going to be a really exciting rally for everybody watching, but for those of us in the fight, we’ll just be pushing as hard as we can.”

Alastair Fisher said:
“I want to be doing WRC-2 next season and it’s great that a team and a manufacturer like PROTON has put its trust in me and has seen what I’m capable of with my stage times. It will take a big step with the budget to move up to WRC-2 in 2013 but hopefully this opportunity with PROTON will give me the chance to impress them and other potential partners.”

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said:
“What a great way to end the season – with a straight fight for the title. Next week is very straightforward, whoever drives faster will be champion. There’s no doubt the event will come with a great deal of pressure, but at the same time it’s going to be very, very exciting. Rallies like Catalunya next week are why we do this job. Obviously, we go to Spain confident in the car and P-G, but at the same time Craig [Breen, Andersson’s main rival] is going very well. There’s no doubt, the boys are going to be in for a battle. The dual-surface nature of the event also means it’s a different challenge for the team. At the end of the opening day when we’ve been on gravel, we will change the suspension and transmission in preparation for the asphalt stages over Saturday and Sunday. It’s quite a big job, but it’s controllable and the team are ready for it. Another exciting element of the event is Alastair joining us for the first time. He was in the car testing with us in Wales a couple of weeks ago and ran very well. He’s clearly a very capable young driver and one we’re very much looking forward to working with next week.”