Proton R3 will be fielding a three-pronged attack on this year’s edition of the Sepang 1000KM endurance race which takes place at the Sepang International Circuit this weekend, where the #82 Proton Saga and #83 Proton Iriz will compete along with the firm’s newly-liveried Saga courtesy of Design For Speed contest winner Azham Bin Zainol.

This weekend, the Saga with the new livery design will be driven by Admi Shahrul and Syafiq Ali, regular winners of the Sepang 1000KM, along with Faye Kusairi, Nurul Husna Nasharuddin and Leona Chin in the #82 Saga, joined by Farique Hairuman and Mitchell Cheah in the #83 Iriz.

The repeated success enjoyed by the Proton factory team certainly comes from the detailed work which will rarely be seen by the general public, who will usually see racing as the more commonly broadcast action on-circuit, as well as trackside. The tip of the iceberg, as it may be.

As for the cars themselves, these originate from the main production line, after which R3 goes to work on the cars, stripping them back to the basics and applying the necessities for a life at the racetrack; check out the Iriz, Saga and Suprima S R3 race cars in further detail, here.

The Saga and Iriz R3 race cars are powered by the same S4PH 1.6 litre, naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, albeit suitably built for the rigours of racing. This is in accordance with the Malaysian Touring Car (MTC) regulations which stipulate the use of a naturally-aspirated engine displacing between 1,401 cc and 1,600 cc.

This will produce peak outputs in the region of 180 hp to 190 hp, said Proton R3 team principal Gary Lee. These engines are slated for a service life of over 1,000 km before rebuilds, though they have previously taken ex-Sepang 1000KM engines and run them for a further 800 km. These powerplants can therefore, in practice, handle almost 2,000 km before requiring rebuilds, he added. The engine and transmission remain the most expensive parts of the car, and cost around RM60,000 each or RM120,000 collectively.

Proton R3 is one of two factory-backed teams currently competing in the Malaysia Championship Series, which the Sepang 1000KM is a part of. Personnel in Proton R3 work exclusively on the team’s racing programmes and its cars, and not staff who are multi-tasked from the automaker’s mass-production operations.

The team is keen to dispel the myth that Proton R3 outsources its machining to external contractors – for example, the rumour that the crankshaft for the S4PH engine is sourced externally is just that; a rumour, and that component is in fact a factory-stock item, team principal Lee said. Even with components which R3 does not necessarily manufacture themselves, the involvement runs deep.

Perhaps more widely known in superbike circles, suspension components manufacturer Ohlins is the supplier to Proton R3, who regards the Swedish company to be the best at what it does. Proton R3 is one of only two organisations in Malaysia to conduct the full range of testing, servicing, rebuilding and calibration of Ohlins automotive components – the other being the principal importer of Ohlins products themselves, according to the national automaker’s motorsport division.

An endurance race such as the Sepang 1000KM which takes place this weekend is the most involving one on the national racing calendar for the team; before the feature race starts on Saturday, Proton R3 will have arrived at the circuit today to commence setup for practice and final tests before qualifying and then ultimately, the race.