The Proton R3 Rally Team gave the thousands of Malaysian rally fans plenty to cheer about on this weekend's Malaysian Rally before the event finished in Johor at the weekend.

Both Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson set fastest times in their Satria Neo S2000s, with McRae just missing out on victory in some of the toughest conditions ever, and Atkinson ending up just off the podium in fourth place.

Despite never having competed on the opening round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship before, McRae gave Proton the dream start to the nation's biggest car rally by leading the event after the opening stage. The Scotsman remained at the sharp end of the leaderboard throughout Saturday and moved back into the lead with
another fastest time on SS6. From then on, despite torrential rain and soaring temperatures, he controlled the event from the front.

After leading overnight, the former British Rally champion further extended his advantage on the opening two stages this morning, looking comfortable and apparently guiding his Proton towards victory. Unfortunately for McRae and co-driver Bill Hayes, however, an engine problem at the start of the final day's third stage meant they would go no further.

Massively disappointed as he may have been, McRae refused to be downbeat about the event and feels the Malaysian Rally has marked the Proton out as the car to beat in this year's APRC series.

"I don't think I have ever seen so much enthusiasm for a rally programme as I saw in Malaysia in the run up to last week's event," the Scot commented, "It was incredible. There was so much support from the Proton factory, the Malaysian government and all the people out there. It was a genuine honour to be driving the car on Proton's home event. And even better, we were setting the pace and leading the rally.

"I really thought we were heading for that dream result - Proton and the MEM team deserved to win the Malaysian Rally. The car was sensational, a real credit to all the boys at MEM who have worked tirelessly through the winter to make the Satria Neo S2000 the quickest car in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. We had a small problem with the fan on the engine [on Saturday], but it's testament to the engine that, even in the harshest and hottest conditions I've ever competed in, this engine
just kept on running.

"Maybe the problem we had on the third stage [on Sunday] was related to that. The conditions really were that tough. I'm a Scot, so I'm used to torrential rain - but it's usually 35 degrees cooler when it's raining where I come from! There are so many positives to take away from Malaysia, it's just made me more excited about the season to come. The APRC title is there for us to win and we'll be back on track in Japan next month."

Team-mate Atkinson showed similar commitment and speed in the sister Satria and, despite never having competed in a Super 2000 car before, the Queenslander and co-driver Stephane Prevot were soon up to speed, collecting their first fastest time for Proton on the fifth test. More was to come from Chris as he maintained that
top-of-the-table pace until the end of the day.

Unfortunately for the Australian, he'd suffered an electrical problem with the car on Saturday's opening test, which left him playing catch up for the remainder of the day. He recovered to fourth place, collecting valuable APRC points for both himself and Proton, while McRae collected three points for being the fastest driver through the
opening day.

"I can't tell you how good it is to be back in a rally car again!" Atkinson enthused, "And what a rally car! The Satria is amazing, a real driver's car. I hadn't done much testing before the start of the event and I'd been away from racing for a year-and-a-half, so it was fantastic to get to shakedown and get through some corners."