Proton Motorsports


1980s and 1990s
Proton has a significant historical presence in motorsports. In the late 1980s, an alliance consisting of Proton, Malaysian oil and gas company Petronas, Mitsubishi Motors of Japan and distributor of Proton cars, Edaran Otomobil Nasional (EON) led to the formation of the Petronas EON Racing Team (PERT).[106] The team focused primarily on rally racing and has been in motorsports as early as 1987.[107] PERT won the 1989 Shell Malaysia Rally with Proton Saga rally cars which were prepared by Mitsubishi’s Ralliart division, featuring powerful 150 bhp engines as part of its rally specifications.[108] PERT won several other international rallies including the 1991 Rally of Thailand, 1993 Dubai International Rally and the Rallye Ng Philipinas in 1995, 1996 and 1997 respectively.[106][109]

Proton’s presence in international motorsports peaked when the Petronas EON Racing Team won the 2002 Production World Rally Championship with veteran Malaysian rally driver Karamjit Singh in a Proton PERT, a rebadged Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.[106][110] The Proton-Karamjit duo also won the 2001, 2002 and 2004 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship titles.[111][112][113]
In 2003, the Proton Motorsports Division, also known as Race.Rally.Research., R3 was established.[106] R3 assumed the responsibility of Proton’s motorsports endeavors, previously held by Ralliart of Mitsubishi Motors. The first model to benefit from R3 engineering was the Proton Satria R3 which launched in late 2004 with a limited run of 150 units.


Asia-Pacific Rally Championship

Alister McRae in his Proton Satria Neo S2000 at Rally Hokkaido during the 2010 APRC season.
Proton re-entered the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) in 2010, an international rally championship organized by the FIA encompassing rounds in Asia and Oceania. Proton had previously participated in the APRC, but withdrew in 2005 due to financial problems. The company competes under the official team name of Proton Motorsports with former WRC drivers Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae from Australia and Scotland respectively in a pair of Proton Satria Neo S2000 rally cars. The new Satria Neo S2000 replaced the Proton PERT as Proton’s premier rally car, and was prepared by British-based Mellors Elliot Motorsport (MEM) in accordance to FIA Super 2000 specifications.[114] The cars cost over RM1 million each and are equipped with 280 bhp (271Nm) 2.0 litre engines paired to 4WD drivetrains.[115] Despite facing technical problems and stiff competition from the superior Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Subaru Impreza rally cars, Proton drivers McRae and Atkinson placed 3rd and 5th respectively in the 2010 APRC season.

2011 Proton Satria Neo CUSCO Edition in Japan.

The following year, Malaysian rally veteran Karamjit Singh rejoined the APRC after a 6-year absence under the Proton R3 Cusco Rally Team in a Group N 2WD CUSCO Japan-tuned 1.6L CamPro 145 hp (170Nm) version of the Satria Neo.

[116] Japanese rally driver Akira Bamba also contested in the 2011 APRC season in another Satria Neo CUSCO. The 2011 season concluded with a one-two Proton Motorsports victory with drivers McRae and Atkinson in their Satria Neo S2000s. Karamjit placed 1st in the 2WD category and 7th overall in the championship, ahead of Bamba who placed 9th overall.[117]

The 2012 APRC season witnessed Chris Atkinson’s departure from Proton Motorsports after two years of racing history with the team. Atkinson joined Indian Team MRF instead where he piloted a Škoda Fabia S2000 alongside Indian rally veteran Gaurav Gill. The vacant slot in Proton Motorsports was filled by Swedish racer Per-Gunnar Andersson who also raced for Proton in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Additionally, Proton R3 Cusco added a third driver, Malaysian Kenneth Koh, whereas Dreams India driver Sanjay Takle participated in another 2WD Satria Neo.

The 2012 season ended with a Team MRF victory, with Atkinson and Gaurav placing first and fourth respectively in their S2000 Škodas.[118] Proton Motorsports driver McRae clinched second, but Andersson placed a lowly seventh overall with the S2000 Satria Neos.[118] Proton R3 Cusco racers Karamjit, Bamba and Kenneth placed fifth, sixth and eight respectively and Dreams India’s Sanjay placed ninth overall.[118]

Intercontinental Rally Challenge

Proton entered into the Intercontinental Rally Challenge 2009 with the Proton Satria Neo Super 2000. Their best result in IRC is Alister McRae finish 2nd place at 2009 Rally Scotland. Drivers in 2009 were Karamjit Singh, Guy Wilks, Bryan Bouffier and Alister McRae scoring 13 points. In 2010 Proton team had many retirements and did not score a single point. Drivers for 2010 were Alister McRae, Chris Atkinson, Niall McShea, Keith Cronin, Gilles Panizzi and privateer with factory support, Tom Cave. Best result of 2010 season was 22nd place of Gilles Panizzi at 2010 Rallye Sanremo, although it was the only finish of Proton Satria Neo S2000 in this season.

British Touring Car Championship

The BTC-T Proton Impian of Team Petronas Syntium Proton at Knockhill Circuit, Scotland.
The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) is a touring car racing series held each year in the United Kingdom. Proton formerly participated in the BTCC between 2002 and 2004 under the official team name, Petronas Syntium Proton (Team PSP). The team in the 2002 and 2003 BTCC seasons was headed by Scottish and English drivers David Leslie and Phil Bennett respectively in two heavily modified BTC-T Proton Impian touring cars.[119] Both drivers were succeeded by South African Shaun Watson-Smith and Malaysian Fariqe Hairuman in the 2004 season.[120] Team PSP proved largely unsuccessful in the BTCC with just 2 wins out of a grand total of 95 races and finally withdrew altogether after the conclusion of the 2004 season.

Daniel Welch’s NGTC Proton Persona at the 2013 BTCC Snetterton GP, England.
In 2011, U.K.-based Welch Motorsport contested in the BTCC in a Proton Persona NGTC, driven by Daniel Welch.[121] Welch Motorsport competes independently and is not officially tied to Proton, but nonetheless indirectly supported by Proton U.K.[122] The team made its debut in the second-half of the 2011 BTCC season and managed to score a point in the final race at the Silverstone Circuit, placing 22nd overall in the tournament. In comparison, 2011 Drivers’ Champion Matt Neal of Honda Racing Team scored 257 points.

Welch Motorsport’s performance improved significantly in the 2012 BTCC season. Daniel Welch had his best ever race at Oulton Park, where he finished sixth in race one and subsequently held off defending champion Matt Neal to claim fourth position in race two. Welch Motorsport placed 15th overall with 79 points in the 2012 season, with 2012 Drivers’ Champion Gordon Shedden scoring 408 points in comparison.
Welch Motorsport expanded to a two car team in the 2013 BTCC season. The Proton Persona NGTC returns in the hands of Daniel Welch, whereas the second car is a Super 2000 Mk 2 Ford Focus driven by David Nye.

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