Proton’s Satria Neo S2000 surged ahead to claim its third victory in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), winning the Pacific Cup and with driver Chris Atkinson finishing first outright in the International Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand.

Alister McRae finished seventh overall in the rally but was second amongst the registered APRC contenders to give Proton a 1-2 finish for maximum points in the championship. He was in 3rd overall for most of the day in a battle with Kiwi Richard Mason who was fourth. Unfortunately, a spin in SS15, the 2nd last stage of the day dropped him to 7th.

Satria Neos also went on to clinch first and second places in the two-wheel drive category of the APRC championship with drivers Karamjit Singh and Akira Bamba in the Proton Cusco Rally Team 1600cc Satria Neos. Karamjit and Akira finished 4th and 5th overall in the APRC classification, 18th and 19th overall for the International Rally of Whangarei respectively from a field of 48 cars that restarted the second day of rallying. A third 1600cc Satria Neo at the hands of Indian driver Sanjay Ram finished 21st.  

For Atkinson, victory in New Zealand was his third after Malaysia and New Caledonia. The Australian and former World Rally Championship (WRC) driver ran a trouble-free rally over the final day’s eight special stages contested against the backdrop of intermittent rain, setting fastest times on five special stages to seal victory for Proton 12.4 seconds ahead of local favourite Hayden Paddon in a Subaru Impreza WRX STi. Atkinson maintained great consistency throughout the two-day event and had even gone on to set a new record in the 10.99km special stage 14 with a time of 6 minutes 48.5 seconds, bettering the previous record held by Paddon by five seconds.

While the stages were generally fast and smooth flowing, the cold and wet conditions did provide a degree of challenge to drivers who were forced to contend with puddles and slippery patches. Among those who retired from the rally were the Team MRF’s and defending APRC champion Katsuhiko Taguchi and team mate Gaurav Gill, and Pertamina Cusco Racing’s Rifat Sungkar, all three driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
Round five of the APRC moves to the Rally of Hokkaido in Japan in September with the final round being the China Rally in November.