From Proton Press [ 19/01/2011 ].
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PROTON Motorsports suffered a disappointing start to the opening day of the Monte Carlo Rally, with neither Satria Neo S2000 making it back to Valence this evening.
The team arrived at the centenary edition of the opening round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge with high hopes of a good result, following positive pre-event testing and engine developments for the PROTON. Double Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson made a solid start on his debut in a Satria Neo S2000, running just outside the top 10 on the opening stage of the world’s most famous rally.
Unfortunately for the Swede, his run came to an end eight kilometres into the second stage, when his Satria suffered damage from an early puncture.
Atkinson’s car was halted near the start of Le Moulinon-Antraigues with an electrical issue. With no superally available to the competitors, both PROTONs have retired from the IRC opener.
Chris Atkinson said:
“When I woke up this morning, I was really looking forward to driving the car. There’s nothing like the feeling of driving one of these rally cars as fast as you can down a stage, it’s awesome and it’s why we do what we do. And everything was cool from the start, no dramas, warmed the tyres up, off the line, everything was good, then nothing. We were less than a kilometre in and the car stopped. The engine had cut and there was nothing, no electrics at all. We couldn’t start the car. I tried to fix it, but there was nothing we could do. The team have looked at the data now and the problem was caused by a voltage surge which blew the control box. This has never happened to us before in testing or anything, it’s an absolute mystery – but when things don’t go your way, they really don’t go your way. The frustration is that we had the engine working really well in the test, it was great. The performance is definitely coming. It's actually a really unusual feeling on the event, this was the first time I’ve retired on the first stage of an event and been completely out of the rally. I’m not a huge fan of superally [the regulation permitting crews to re-enter events on the following day], but I really would have been today. It just seems such a waste that we’ve now got two perfect rally cars sitting here doing nothing; the fans would love to have seen the cars on the stages tomorrow and P-G and I would love to have been driving them.”
P-G Andersson said:
“The first stage was good, no problems. I wasn’t pushing too hard, it was the first stage and we wanted to settle down. About five kilometres into the second stage, there was a double right-hander into a left, the car slid a little wide. I saw a ditch coming, there were some leaves in the ditch, but I thought it would be okay. It wasn’t, there was a big stone hiding under the leaves; we hit the stone and broke the front-left wheel rim, which caused us to have a puncture. Three kilometres later, while we were braking for a hairpin, one of the arm’s broke on the car and the wheel turned out. That was it, there was nothing we could do. We had to stop. I tried to fix it, but it was very doubtful that we would have got the car to service after the next stage. It’s really disappointing that this is the result of our debut with PROTON. Clearly, the car has good potential and it would have been fantastic to take a result for the team on my first time in the Satria, but it hasn’t gone that way. The new engine was good, we were getting more power lower down in the rev range, it was easier to drive than before. It’s just so frustrating that we don’t have superally to go out and do some more driving in the car, it would have been very useful to get some testing mileage done.”
Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“The whole team is feeling the frustration from what has happened today, that goes without saying. We were all really upbeat coming into Monte Carlo, we’d done four days’ testing in the Alps and another three back in the UK – and we hadn’t put a spanner on the car. And today we have one car out with a simple accident, if you can call it an accident, and one car out with a freak electrical issue. I honestly wonder if there’s anything left for us to see, it’s just incredible. It’s a real shame for Chris [Atkinson], he’s gone out very early, but P-G [Andersson] took a sensible approach and came out of SS1 in 11th, I’m confident we would have been well inside the top 10 if it hadn’t been for his problems. We came here with a revised specification of engine and that worked well, the drivers were pleased with the way it was working – delivering the torque lower down in the rev range. We’ve taken some steps and we have seen the benefits from those steps, that’s one of the good things we take from here. Despite what has happened, there’s still a huge positivity around the team, we all know what PROTON Motorsports and this car is capable of. We’re unlocking the potential, there’s more to come."