Team Proton R3, winners of the Sepang 1000KM Endurance Race (S1K) in 2017, will be defending its title in the 2018 edition of the event with a new car spearheading its efforts. The newly-developed Saga will be competing in the S1K for the first time alongside an Iriz in a 2-car effort that R3 hopes will bring a second consecutive and fourth overall race win for Proton.
As the company’s first model, the Saga introduced the Proton brand to the world not only commercially but also in motorsports. It was used in local rallies and eventually circuit racing as well. Aside from manufacturer backed efforts, the Saga has also been the car of choice for those wanting to get into racing. Its affordable price, robust mechanical components and long production run mean it’s easy to obtain a unit and modify it (in accordance with regulations) for competition use.
For the 2018 edition of the S1K race, R3 built a racing car based on the current version of the Saga, which was launched in 2016. The high torsional rigidity of its body makes it an ideal platform for competition use while its balanced handling and proven mechanical package are suited to a 1,000-km race where cars are pushed to their limits during 181 hot and fast laps.
“The Proton Saga has a long history of competing and winning in various motorsports competitions and the S1K is the perfect platform to reintroduce Proton fans to our R3 racing division while reminding them about the racing heritage of our best-selling model. This will be the first time the current Proton Saga will be competing and it will be racing against very stiff competition but we believe in the ability of R3 to develop a competitive machine,” said Abdul Rashid Musa, CEO of Proton Edar.
R3 was established in 2003 as Proton’s Motorsports Division, Specialising in research, development and production of competition cars, R3 has also been responsible for limited-edition R3 road cars as well as parts and accessories carrying the R3 brand name.
Over the last 15 years, the division has supported and participated in – and won – some of the most prestigious motorsports events in Malaysia and throughout the region. Highlights include overall victories at the Merdeka Millennium Endurance event in 2005 and 2006 as well as 3 victories at the S1K race in 2012, 2014 and last year, 2017.
For this year’s effort, the R3 team will include 15 students from DRB-HICOM University of Automotive Malaysia (located in Pekan, Pahang). The 4 drivers who competed for the team in 2017 have been brought back with the winning driver pairing from 2017. They consist of veteran Admi Shahrul and James Veerapan who will be trying to repeat their victory, while Fariqe Hairuman and Syafiq Ali will race in the Iriz.
“While some teams may have 3 drivers per car, Proton R3 has chosen to go with just two as we want to maximise the amount of time each has behind the wheel. This allows them to build a good rhythm, which is important for setting consistent lap times in such a long race. Typically, races like the Sepang 1000KM require teams to go flat out for the first few laps before driving at a predetermined pace to preserve the car and components such as tyres and brakes,” said Gary Lee, Team Principal of Proton R3.
“Consistency and reliability are vital to winning as pushing too hard can cause mechanical issues. We know it’s very difficult to make up for lost time in the pits but by fielding two competitive cars, Proton R3 was still able to win in 2017. This year, we aim to get both cars on the podium, a tough task as the Proton Saga is a brand new car but with teamwork and a little bit of luck, I am confident of adding more glory to the company’s record of racing success,” he added.