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Rally Hokkaido - Japan - 21-23 May 10

Posted: May 28, 2010 1:28 PM - 4455 Hits

Round 2 - 2010 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship

In Car (Japanese!)

Posted: May 28, 2010 1:28 PM

PROTON: points and pace in Japan

Posted: May 24, 2010 1:55 PM

The PROTON R3 Rally Team once again demonstrated the pace and potential of the Satria Neo S2000 on last weekend's Rally Hokkaido - with Alister McRae taking points after setting more fastest times among the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship competitors.

McRae and his team-mate Chris Atkinson were both taken by surprise when they saw the nature of the roads used by the Japanese round of the APRC. The pair had been expecting fast but flowing roads, but they were faced with super-fast stages with long straight after long straight - the kind of roads which were going to play straight into the hands of their rivals driving turbocharged cars. Atkinson admitted the nature of the roads had changed considerably from when he collected a podium result on the World Rally Championship round which visited this area in 2005.

Despite being as much as 30kph down on their rivals down the long straights (due to the difference in specification of the cars), McRae led the APRC competition after the opening stage on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, that was as good as it would get for the Scotsman. He suffered two punctures on the next stage, but drove heroically for 15 kilometres to contain the time loss to just 50 seconds, and then hit an unavoidable rock in the middle of the car's underbody protection on SS6. When his Satria began to leak oil from the impact, he switched the car off. McRae and his co-driver Bill Hayes returned today (Sunday) and finished a trouble-free third over the course of day two.

Atkinson continued to level his learning curve in both the PROTON and the Super 2000 formula, posting competitive times before his Satria suffered an engine problem on the fifth stage. Given the high-speed nature of the stages, Atkinson's car had been on the rev limiter in top gear for three kilometres in the test where the problem set in. The Australian also returned for more competition on Sunday, but retired before the finish. Now, Atkinson and co-driver Stephane Prevot are looking forward to the next event. The International Rally of Whangarei means a short hop across the Tasman Sea from his Queensland home to New Zealand for Atkinson.

Quotes:

Alister McRae said:
"We've taken points for the championship and we've shown how quick the car is again on this rally. I've been in and around this sport for a while now and I've seen these kind of times come and go for a team like MEM and the PROTON R3 Rally Team, it's the ebb and flow of rallying. One thing is for sure, as much as I have known for any team, this team deserves and has the result coming. The guys are working absolutely flat out and we are going to win very soon - and when we do, we'll all have earned it. But, when things aren't going your way, they're not going your way. We were leading APRC runner when we got two punctures. We drove 15 kilometres like that and did well to only lose 50 seconds or something like that. Unfortunately we then had to drive the short stage with a puncture as well. On the re-run of the long stage, we hit a rock right in the centre of the sumpguard. A few kilometres down the road the oil light came on and we switched it off. Nine times out of 10 you'd have got away with it, but, like I said, when your luck's not in...
"We ran well on Sunday, when we re-started, and again set a fastest time in the APRC runners. We were third fastest through Sunday, and that was driving sensibly. This car and this team is overdue a result; for the sake of our championship aspirations, we need that to come next time out in New Zealand."

Chris Atkinson said:
"The stages we used in Japan we quite different to the ones I remember from the World Rally Championship event, they had a lot more straights in them. We sat on the rev limiter in top gear for a minute on one stage - that's so frustrating when you know that we're doing 175kph and the Group N cars with their turbo are going at speeds up to 210kph. It's also not the most interesting of challenges to be driving on straight roads. We had an engine problem with the car on Saturday when we were not far off the lead of APRC. This sport can be tough sometimes. But New Zealand is coming and we'll be right back on it there - I'm already counting the days until we can launch the PROTON through those cambers: it's going to be awesome."

Datuk Razak (team director) said:
"Rally Hokkaido was Proton's first outing in Japan. I think it's fair to say we have made some friends there! The level of interest in the Satria Neo and the Super 2000 programme was fantastic. All of the time we had an incredible level of support from the local fans, there was even a group who flew up from Tokyo specifically to see our car, after they had heard so much about it. Our drivers Alister and Chris were in constant demand to sign autographs for their new-found fans; all-in-all Rally Hokkaido was a very positive experience for marketing and building the brand in Japan - and the car and drivers showed very good pace again."

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
"We came to Japan looking for the win and we haven't got it. I'm not going to start making excuses, that's not what we're about. Instead, we'll go away and further fine-tune what is clearly a very good car. Alister and Chris showed what the PROTON is capable of again here in Japan; Alister was leading the APRC standings after the first proper stage on Saturday. Nobody is working harder than us to win rallies and, at some point, our bad luck is going to turn around."

Results

Posted: May 24, 2010 1:53 PM

1. T. Arai/D Barritt (Subaru Impreza N16) 2:06:29.9
2. K.Taguchi/C Murphy (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X) +1:56.4
3. H.Yanagisawa/Y.NAKAHARA Y. Nakahara (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X) +2:05.4
4. G.Gill/G MacNeall (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X) +3:59.9
5. Y.Sumuyama/N Kase (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X) +5:29.8

PROTON aims to set the pace in Japan

Posted: May 18, 2010 2:40 PM

The PROTON R3 Rally Team has arrived in Japan for the second round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship - Rally Hokkaido - which starts from Makubetsu on Friday (May 21) evening.

After stunning the opposition with a string of fastest times and the rally lead on last month's opening round in Malaysia, PROTON drivers Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson have vowed to come back even harder on this week's second event in the of the seven-round series.

McRae, co-driven by Australian Bill Hayes, led the event with a brilliant drive in some of the hottest conditions he has ever had to cope with. McRae's supreme fitness endured this stern test and, just as he his lead was beginning to look comfortable, his Satria Neo S2000 suffered a minor engine fault. Atkinson ended his debut event for the PROTON R3 Rally Team fourth in the championship standings after an extremely promising start. After the tight, twisty and technical stages in Malaysia, both men are ready to let the MEM-built PROTON fly on the sweeping gravel roads of Japan's northernmost island.

PROTON is no stranger to success at the highest level of global motorsport, having won the 2002 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship.

Rally Hokkaido is one of the most popular rounds of the APRC. It's not hard to see why. The local population of Makubetsu and Obihiro, the areas of Japan's Tokachi region where the rally runs, turn out in force to celebrate and support the rally's arrival, turning this event into a noisy and colourful carnival of motorsport. Such is the popularity of the sport in this region, a 50,000-strong crowd for the ceremonial start is a regular occurrence.

Tokachi is known for extreme temperatures, with an annual temperature range of 60 degrees Celsius. The record low winter temperature for the area is -38.2 degrees, while the opposite end of the scale is a July high of 37.8 degrees. The average for this time of the year is around 18 degrees with rain possible.

The stages on the event run to the north-west of Makubetsu, except the exceptionally popular Obihiro spectator stage next to the Kita Aikoku service park. This 1.20-kilometer test opens proceedings one hour after the ceremonial start on Friday evening and then runs a further three times during the rally.

After such a strong start in Malaysia, all eyes will be on former British Rally Champion McRae in Japan, but the Scotsman, who now lives in Western Australia, admits his fellow PROTON driver Chris Atkinson is likely to be right up there setting the pace with him on Rally Hokkaido.

Atkinson, co-driven by Belgian Stephane Prevot, has a strong record in Japan. On his first trip to the World Rally Championship qualifier which also ran across these roads, he won his class by an astonishing 10 minutes in 2004. Twelve months on from that result and Atkinson was celebrating his first ever WRC podium, taking third place for the official Subaru team. Atkinson then collected two fourth positions in the next three editions of the event.

McRae and Atkinson will test the Satria Neo S2000 in Japan on Wednesday afternoon, before conducting a two-day recce of the route on Thursday and Friday morning.

Quotes:
Alister McRae said:
"I have never competed in Japan before, so I've only got a rough idea of what to expect. I've watched some footage from Rally Japan and a lot of the in-car, so this gives you a good flavour of the stages to come. They look quite fast in places, but really narrow as well. They don't seem to flow too much. I would say the key to this event is going to be getting an accurate set of notes from the recce. The big thing for us in Japan is that this event really should suit the car more than Malaysia did - and we led that rally, which shows the pace we've got in the PROTON. The one thing we shouldn't have in Japan is the same kind of fierce heat we felt in Malaysia, which will make the car much more comfortable. I think our big competition here is going to be Katsu Taguchi. He won the opening round in Malaysia and, this being his local event, he's done it a great number of times. The result we're after for PROTON is two podiums, with Chris [Atkinson, team-mate] or myself on the top step."

Chris Atkinson said:
"I've got fond memories of Japan; it's the place where I scored my first podium, taking third place on my first visit there in the Impreza WRC in 2005. The stages are good. They're fast and smooth in places, but they are quite technical. There's a lot of the road running under the trees which can make it hard to see the precise line you want to take through the corner. You do need very accurate pace notes on this event. The last rally in Malaysia was my first real time in the car and, as such, I was still getting used to my new surroundings. In Japan this week, I'll be more used to the car and I'll be looking to push harder and see what we can do. The PROTON felt fantastic last time out - and that was on stages which didn't really suit the Super 2000 car - so I can't wait to get it into Japan to see what we can do. I've always like rallying in this part of the world. The people are all really enthusiastic towards the sport and friendly and the food is fantastic. All in all, I'm really looking forward to Rally Hokkaido and, most of all, to getting the result which everybody at PROTON and MEM deserve."

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
"We're looking forward to a good weekend in Japan. We've done some more work with the car since the opening round in Malaysia and we've made some more good steps. Alister's pace in Malaysia was fantastic and we're looking forward to more of the same this week. Chris is getting quicker and quicker in the car all the time. It's easy to forget Malaysia was literally his first real mileage in the PROTON. I'd expect him to be right up there at the sharp end in Japan, given that he has such a strong record on this event. Every kilometer Chris does in the car is levelling his learning curve. I think we have the makings of a good result in Hokkaido, but at the same time we have to remember there's going to be some strong competition there, not only from the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, but also from the local drivers who know this event well." v

Entry List available

Posted: May 13, 2010 4:17 PM

Event Website / Details

Posted: January 1, 2010 12:01 AM

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