Proton’s cars usually don’t get much time on TopSpeed because they have traditionally been, well, boring. But the economy carmaker has always had an ace up its sleeve: it owns Lotus. Now it may be using the British brand to help it dominate the rally car circuit.
It seems there is a perfect storm brewing. Subaru is dropping out of the World Rally Championship, which is leaving a big hole for a new competitor to fill. Proton has already got a racer called the Satria Neo S2000 (based on theLotus-tuned R3 Satria). What can really bring this all together is the driver, and ex-Subie champion Petter Solberg is rumored to fill that role for Proton.
If Proton were to go through with plans to compete in the WRC, it could possibly finally get the brand some worldwide respect. After all, rallying took Subaru from its “cheap and ugly” days and gave it bedroom poster status.
Proton will give Australia a sneak preview of its next generation hot hatch when it unveils the Proton R3 Satria at the Melbourne International Motor Show on February 29.
The R3 Satria has been developed by Proton’s special vehicles and motorsport arm - R3, which stands for Race, Rally, and Research - at its headquarters in Shah Alam in Malaysia.
R3 is headed up by former Lotus engineer and prominent Malaysia race driver Tengku Djan Ley. The R3 Satria combines a range of special body enhancements as well as suspension development and a high performance power plant, to give the Satria Neo a true edge in the hot hatch arena.
At this stage the R3 Satria is still in development and no on sale date has been decided however the R3 division is working to bring the performance model to market as soon as possible.