The Geko Ypres Rally happened over the weekend as the fifth leg of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC). The Belgian asphalt rally was a treacherous one that claimed many big names, including local favourite Thiery Neuville and Skoda drivers Andreas Mikkelsen and Jan Kopecky. Proton’s Giandomenico Basso also failed to finish but teammate P-G Andersson managed to complete the rally in 19th place.

Proton’s Swede was among the 61 finishers of 124 cars that started the two-day 18-stage rally. 31 entrants were S2000 cars. Racing across narrow farmland roads, the extreme wet, cold and slippery conditions made the event extra challenging.

The rally was won by home boy Freddy Loix, who led from start and did not put a wheel wrong. The Skoda man is now top of the IRC driver standings. Peugeot’s Bryan Bouffier was second and debutant Hans Weijs completed the podium in a Fabia.

Proton pilots Basso and Andersson had both come within nine seconds of creeping into the top 10 places before being struck by misfortune. Pushing hard after finishing the first day in 11th and just nine seconds adrift, Basso’s rally came to an end in SS7 when he hit a low brick wall hidden in tall grass. That knock put his Satria Neo S2000 in a ditch.

Meanwhile, P-G began to pick up his pace in the rally and shot from 18th in the opening stage (SS7) to move up to 17th and then 16th over the next two SS. By SS10 he was 12th and with one stage to go in SS17, the double Junior WRC had brought the Satria Neo S2000 to 11th and within 8.9 seconds of a top-10 finish.

But it was not meant to be. Proton’s valiant charge was dealt a cruel blow when P-G’s final push saw him went wide 2km into the 10km final special stage (SS18). The Neo’s left rear wheel was damaged, but Andersson was still able to continue, losing 24 seconds in the process to eventually finish in 19th.

Despite the heartbreak, the team sees the encouraging pace as a “real competitive assessment of where we are currently in terms of development and how much more we need to do in the IRC” according to Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood, Head of Proton Motorsports.

“Although this is Proton’s first full year in the IRC, we are certainly making valuable progress and heading in the right direction as far as development of the Satria Neo S2000 and the brand is concerned,” he added. Chin up guys, better luck next time!