The Proton Motorsports team is now in Ukraine for the Prime Yalta Rally, which is the fourth round of this season’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC). Their last IRC event was Round 2 (Rally Islas Canarias) in Spain, where the team collected its first points of the season. The yellow Neos then skipped Round 3 (Tour de Corse) to focus on the APRC’s Queensland Rally in Australia.

The three-day event sees Proton fielding its strongest line-up to date in the IRC. Against the backdrop of the Crimea region’s Ai-Petri Mountains on the north coast of the Black Sea, Yalta consists of 14 special stages run entirely on asphalt over a combined distance of 721.61 km.

Things are off to a good start. Two of three Proton Satria Neo Super 2000 cars finished in the top 10 after Leg 1. Italian Giandomenico Basso, who scored in Spain for Proton, is the highest placed in eighth position after the opening day’s two SS and just 5.6 seconds adrift of current leader Thierry Neuville (Peugeot 207 S2000). Teammate P-G Andersson is a further three seconds behind to round up the top 10 dominated by Peugeot and Skoda.

Proton’s third entry, piloted by Ukrainian rally star and former USSR rally champ Oleksandr Saliuk Sr is 18th overall from a total of 42 registered competitors, 26.7 seconds down the order. Saliuk Sr’s son Alexander had earlier been scheduled to drive the third Neo S2000 but suffered a broken arm, so in came dad.

Special stage 1 began in the outskirts of Yalta over a short 2.12 km sprint before moving on to Livadija for the second special stage, which was run over a distance of 5.49 km. Leg 2 will consist of six special stages to be run today while the third and final leg on Saturday will also be run over another six special stages.

New to the IRC calendar, the Prime Yalta Rally has levelled the playing field somewhat, with teams not having the benefit of previous technical data to rely on. The changing weather conditions has also made it even more challenging with the varying levels of grip, according to Proton team members in Ukraine. Good luck guys!