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GP Week : Issue 123
“Up and down, some good and some not so good results. Leading the APRC series is encouraging. We are gaining pace in the IRC but there have been problems with the engines, on which work is about to start.”. Thus, MEM director Chris Mellors, charged with running both aspects of the Proton rally programme, confirmed that coming straight from over-all victory on the Asia Pacific Rally in the Pacific island of New Caledonia, off the Australian coast, to the hotbed of IRC Super 2000 activity at Ypres was a major change of culture. In the APRC championship, Proton driver Chris Atkinson is leading the FIA gravel series after three rounds and team- mate Alister McRae is lying joint second. Chris has won two of the three rounds so far held. The farmland asphalt roads in Belgium however were another scene altogether. The biggest technical change for the Proton team in 2011 has been using Reiger suspension: “ This has made a big improvement, more so on gravel than on tarmac. And many other small changes have collectively made quite a difference. The trouble with the engines has centred on the valve train. Although the engine is now producing quite a lot of power, any over-rev causes trouble. Basically that has been the common theme behind all the problems. We also had problems with the alternator on Monte Carlo (IRC) and Australia, (APRC Queensland Rally), found to be trouble with the regulator which has now been addressed. “Looking at the APRC, we have had more luck on gravel than on tarmac, obviously something to do with the engine situation. Our most immediate challenge is to get more reliability into the engine. If that can be achieved and we get some more testing, I think we will get more performance out of the car ”. At the moment there are no settled plans for 2012. Mellors: “ The rules for 2012 seem to be changing all the time. The latest uncertainty concerns the R4 class cars, intended to be somewhere in between Super 2000 and WRC. “Obviously we would like to put a 1600 turbo engine into our current car, but at the moment the regulations are too unsettled.” Swedish driver PG Andersson has been helping the team, but his only current experience of the Proton is on asphalt: “ The car certainly has potential, it just needs more work. The main problem is the engine. I do not think it has the power. Brakes, chassis, everything else is right.” Not such a good event in Ypres. Giandomenico Basso retired off the road early on Day 2, while Andersson struggled to the finish in 20th place, having broken a steering arm. Entries have closed for the Neste Oil Rally Finland, eighth round in the 2011 World Championship, with 124 crews applying to start the rally, the highest number for a WRC event since late 2000. The previous highest entry in the 2011 WRC was 70 in Portugal. This event is the only round of the 2011 championship to count for all three suppor t championships – SWRC, PCWRC and Academy, which swells the numbers. This time there are to be 11 Fiesta WRCs as well as six Minis and four DS3s, seven of the World Rally cars being driven by Finnish divers. No cars have entered in the New Generation Super 2000 class (Class 1), but this will be the first time both the Subaru R4 and the Mitsubishi R4 cars will be matched against the Old Generation Super 2000 cars in Class 2. No fewer than four Guest support championship drivers have been nominated by the organisers. In the SWRC, Juha Salo will drive a Mitsubishi R4, Joonas Lindroos one of the VW-entered Skodas; while in PWCRC Riku Tahko will drive an Evo X and Mikko Pajunen a Clio R3, the first time that Citroen DS3 R3T driver Harry Hunt will have opposition in the FIA’s new Production Car 2WD Cup. WRC news >> Huge entry list for Finland Proton awaits urgent engine upgrades