After the heartbreak in Australia, Proton has returned to winning ways in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), winning the Rally De Nouvelle Caledonie. Chris Atkinson and co-driver Stephane Prevot took the Satria Neo S2000 to victory in the third round of the APRC, finished ahead of Pertamina Cusco Racing’s Rifat Sungkar in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.

Teammate Alister McRae capped off a successful weekend in New Caledonia with a hard-fought third place, after having conceded his early lead in the rally due to a puncture and broken driveshaft. The result mirrors that of the Malaysian Rally, the opening round of the championship.

“It’s a phenomenal result for Proton – the entire team and for Stephane and I personally. Our rally wasn’t exactly trouble free, especially with a broken driveshaft on day 2, but we were lucky we had built a big enough gap to have it replaced and still hang on to the lead,” said Atkinson.

Atkinson moves into the lead of the APRC Driver’s Championship with 58 points, just two ahead of McRae. In third place is Team MRF’s Gaurav Gill, who retired in New Caledonia. McRae also reclaims the top spot in the Asia Cup Driver’s Championship ahead of Gill.

Victory in New Caledonia saw Proton claiming not only the overall victory, but also top honours amongst the APRC contenders, finishing first in the Pacific Cup and clinching the APRC Team Trophy at the event.

A further bonus for Proton came from Karamjit Singh, who won the Two-Wheel Drive Category in a 1600cc Satria Neo, extending his lead in the Driver’s Championship and Proton’s in the Manufacturer’s Championship. Karamjit finished ninth overall in the rally.

“Two victories in three rounds of the APRC certainly prove the competitiveness of the Satria Neo S2000. We’ve endured our fair share of misfortunes and mechanical issues, but the car has nevertheless proven time and time again that it is able to take on the more powerful turbocharged cars and more importantly, win rallies,” said Proton’s managing director Datuk Seri Syed Zainal Abidin.

“We have channeled a lot of effort towards development in terms of achieving both greater performance and reliability since the last rally in Australia and this has indeed paid dividends here in New Caledonia. This is a big step forward and with all the mechanical issues hopefully behind us, we now look forward to our next immediate event, which is the Ypres Rally in Belgium in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) and New Zealand in the APRC,” he added.