Proton Mecsek Rally Preview

Proton Mecsek Rally PreviewFrom Proton Press [ 06/09/2011 ].
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The PROTON Motorsports team arrives in Hungary for the start of the latest Intercontinental Rally Challenge on Friday (September 9), with the sole aim of building on the solid results achieved on last month’s Barum Czech Rally Zlin.

PROTON drivers P-G Andersson (Sweden) and Giandomenico Basso (Italy) are both on top form and match-fit after their Czech run just a fortnight ago. And the Malaysian-manufactured Satria Neo S2000, having halved the gap to the pace-setting factory cars at the front of the field, continues to get better and better this season.

The challenge which awaits the crews in Hungary is asphalt, like the last round. But the nature of the roads around the host city of Pecs is a slightly different to the Zlin lanes. The stages this time around will be faster, smoother and less abrasive. Round eight does have its similarities to round seven, however: the roads will still dive in and out of dense forests, meaning the grip levels can alter radically under the trees. The other similarity will be in the number of people lining those roads. More than 300,000 turned out to watch in Czech. With a similar number expected this week, more than half a million people will have been exposed to the PROTON Motorsport brand via the IRC in just two weeks.

Beyond its IRC programme, PROTON Motorsports is also contesting the 2011 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, where the Malaysian manufacturer has already clinched one title (the Pacific Cup). Courtesy of winning three from four rallies so far this year, PROTON leads both the drivers' and manufacturers' championships with two rounds remaining.

But, before the PROTON Motorsports team is seen on its next IRC event on Friday, two-time Junior World Rally Champion Andersson and his fellow Satria Neo S2000 driver, double European Rally Champion Basso will get the chance to fine-tune the car to the precise requirements of the Hungarian roads at a pre-event test tomorrow (Monday).

The weather will be changeable this week, courtesy of the Mecsek Mountains which provide a beautiful backdrop to a rally making its debut in the IRC. The event is well-known to the rally community as an IRC Supporter rally and locally as one of the best events in Hungary. The Canon Mecsek Rallye has a 45-year history in the sport.

With only just over a week between the last two rounds of the series, the PROTON Motorsports team has been busy transporting the two Satria Neo S2000s between Czech Republic and Hungary. The cars have been re-prepared in that time, with the Malaysian manufacturer even finding time to make some alterations to the car to make it even faster this week.

The event starts from the centre of what was the 2010 European Capital of Culture on Friday afternoon, with a spectator-pleasing, but non-competitive prologue stage soon afterwards. The first timed stage begins on Saturday morning, with the crews facing a gruelling day of sport. On the road for more than 13 hours, the drivers will tackle a 498-kilometre route, 144 of which will be competitive and driven flat-out. Sunday’s second and final day is slightly shorter, but the Canon Mecsek Rallye will certainly test the cars and crews to the full.

As ever, all the action on the stages will be relayed to millions of fans around the world via Eurosport’s extensive network of shows and channels.

Quotes:

P-G Andersson said:
“With all these rallies on Tarmac this year, my driving is improving on this surface all of the time and we are learning more and more about the PROTON. I am trusting the car, which is what you have to do to be competing with the car on the limit. The last rally was a good step and we should be making another one here. Not having competed regularly in the IRC, these are new rallies for me. But, this time around, Hungary is a new event for all of the main IRC drivers. This is better, it means nobody has an advantage – nobody has made pace notes or really knows what to expect from the roads.”

Giandomenico Basso said:
“I was happy with the last rally, we made the finish and a good result for the team; that was a hard race and I’m sure this one will be as well. We showed the car is reliable and the car is coming better for Barum and for here. We will be at maximum attack here in Hungary, we have a good feeling in the PROTON team.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We’re looking to bring both the cars home with a couple of solid top-10 results in Hungary this week. We are making very, very good progress with the car. We saw the result of that progress in Zlin, with the way the time differences were coming down from 12 months ago. Like P-G says, it’s nice that we’re going out on a level playing field for all of the guys, nobody really knows too much about what’s coming on this event. Like all IRC rounds, I’m sure it’s going to be another great and very well-supported rally.”