Proton marked their best finish yet this season in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) at the Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles in Spain as driver Giandomenico Basso brought his Satria Neo S2000 home in ninth place for a well deserved two points for the driver's championship and 16 points for Proton in the manufacturer's standings.
The results in Spain puts Proton fourth in the manufacturers table, behind leaders Skoda and Peugeot and just two points adrift of Subaru in third. The ninth place finish made Proton the best of the Asian manufacturers in Spain as well, ahead of Suzuki, Honda and Subaru as well as European manufacturers Citroen, Renault and Ford.
Based on the standings, it isn't a surprise that the top eight in Spain consisted of Skoda and Peugeot machines with the defending IRC champ, Juho Hanninen, taking the win ahead of Skoda teammate Jan Kopecky. Peugeot's Thierry Neuville was third in his 207 S2000. Although Basso was 49 seconds behind the eighth-placed driver, Bruno Magalhaes in a 207 S2000, he was ahead of the tenth-placed driver, former World Rally Championship driver Toni Gardemeister in a Skoda Fabia S2000, by 48 seconds.
“It's a positive result to start with the new team. I think we did a good job and now that the event is over, we will be discussing what further improvements we can make to the car with as there is still a long way to go in the championship,” said Basso.
Basso's teammate, PG Anderson, came in 16th after losing plenty of ground on the first day, having suffered from two punctures. After switching tyres following the first puncture, Anderson was forced to take on the sixth special stage with a slow puncture as there wasn't another spare tyre. As a result, he dropped to 19th at the end of the first day but fought back to finish 16th.
The second round of the IRC was contested on the little Spanish island that sits just 100km off the coast of Africa. A total of 12 special stages covering 190.59km made up the rally. It attracted 35 drivers in the IRC field with Peugeot being the most represented manufacturer, having six 207 S2000s on the field, followed by SKoda with five.
“While the Satria Neo S2000 has benefitted from a number of enhancements, we arrived at the rally fully realizing that the competition will be extremely stiff. A top 10 finish and securing 16 championship points is nevertheless encouraging, proving that we are progressively moving forward and getting more competitive. Above all, it tells us how much more is required,” said Proton Group Managing Director Datuk Sri Haji Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir.