The recently concluded Monte Carlo rally is perhaps the most prestigious rounds of world rallying calender. Celebrating its 100th year, this time it ran under the Intercontinental Rally Championship (IRC), a fast growing rally series by Euro sports that catching up its popularity against the premier World Rally Championship (WRC). Think the Monaco GP in F1 and you should able to picture the level of glamor this rally event has.
This year’s round was held for a long 4 days from 19th January to 22th. The rally stage is asphalt stage, covering tarmac rounds on rural mountainous roads on a winter, day and night, which brings tremendous challenge for drivers and navigators. The IRC series has gained attention to some local rally fans since Proton, via Chris Mellor’s MEM team, has filled 2 Proton Satria Neo S2000 to participate in this rally. With top drivers like Chris Atkinson and PG Andersson, expectations were high for the team.
Unfortunatelly, as any motorsports event, shit does happen and it happened, again, to the Proton Satria Neo S2000 Neo duo. Both drivers retired from the rally on Day 1, where Chris Atkinson’s car failed after 700m from the start of SS1 due to electrical problem. While Andersson’s car survived SS1 on 11th place, he hit a rock damaging his suspension, hence ending his rally as well. To add salt into injury, super rally rules (a rule where allows cars that retire to continue rallying on the next day if the car is fixed, but unable to score points) were not applicable in IRC. That was a massive blow to the team, forcing the team to pack up early.
Still, intense competition ensures between some seasoned rally drivers like former WRC champion Petter Solberg, former WRC drivers Freddy Loix, current IRC champion Juho Hanninen and many more in their respected Peugeot 207 and Skodia Fabia S2000 machines. In the end, the unexpected happened when 1st time winner and Franceman Bryan Bouffier with his Peugeot 207 won the rally by commanding a 50sec lead over his rivals. Second place goes to Freddy Loix while third place was controversially given to Guy Wilks after team orders allows his team mate Stephane Sarrazin to drop from 3rd to 4th.
In the end, it is a massive disappointment to the Proton Rally team and MEM and once again luck is not on their side. On the other note, PG Andersson just recently signed a full 1 year contract with Proton to drive the remainder of the rounds in IRC 2011. Next round of the IRC will take place in Spain on 14-16 April, so we wish for Proton to have much better luck in the coming rounds. Joey Yap for Feng Shui consultation perhaps?