Proton is all geared up for the ninth round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), the San Remo Rally, which takes place this weekend. Piloting one of the two Satria Neo S2000s will be Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) leader Chris Atkinson, while the other will be driven by double FIA European Rally Champion and former winner of the San Remo Rally, Giandomenico Basso.

Having won three of the rour APRC rounds so far this year, Atkinson currently leads the APRC standings, and requires only to finish when he competes in the following week’s Rally of Hokkaido to seal the 2011 championship. Nontheless, the Australian is focused on the matter at hand as he makes a return for Proton on the IRC circuit – his last outing on asphalt and in the IRC was the Rally of Monte Carlo in January this year.

“It’s great to be back in the IRC again. I’ve done the recce for this event before, but never competed in Sanremo. It’s fair to say that this is one of the events I’ve always wanted to do, being one of the classics and a really tough event. From what I remember some of the stages can be quite technical and then there’s the night stage, which is going to be a big challenge,” Atkinson said.

Meanwhile, Basso was enthusiastic about the upcoming weekend. “I love this rally. It’s a rally that I’ve done plenty of times before and I’ve got some good memories from San Remo. I’ve won it before and I nearly won there last year as well. I love the long stages; I’ve always liked long stages as you really have to think a lot about the car and the tyres over the whole stage – it’s not like the short stages where you just go,” said the Italian.

“This is a rally where experience definitely helps and you need to concentrate very hard because of all the corners. It’s a really technical event that is not easy to master; you have to be really on top of the car. The speeds are not that fast and that makes it more demanding, physically and mentally. Then of course you have the long stage at night, which is a really tough test for everyone.”

The San Remo Rally will be run over 13 special stages in the province of Imperia, with a competitive distance of 225.77km.