The motorsport ambitions of Proton will come of age at Easter when two new Impian saloons line up alongside established works saloon racers from seven other marques for the start of the 2002 British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch.
Powered by a race-prepared two litre version of the model’s soon to be released 1.8 engine option, the Impian has already shown that it has what it takes to run with the championship pace setters.
In the first official BTCC test at Silverstone, team leader David Leslie recorded ninth fastest time, just 1.7 seconds seconds behind quickest driver Matt Neal in the 2001 championship-winning Vauxhall Astra Coupe.
Proton’s UK motorsport pedigree dates back to the mid-1990’s when a works Wira saloon was successfully campaigned in the RAC Rally. More recently the Malaysian manufacturer ran its own one-make club racing series with the Proton 1.8 Coupé.
This year the Proton Satria GTi will be exclusively used by the motor racing school run by Octagon Motorsports at Silverstone to provide track tuition to up to 30,000 budding racing drivers, who are expected to enrol for the Proton Racing Experience.
Entered by Snetterton-based Team PETRONAS Syntium Proton, the Impian challenge is supported by Proton Cars (UK) Ltd. The team’s cars were supplied in standard showroom form by Jeffries of Bacton, the Proton dealer in nearby Stowmarket.
In pre-season testing, the strength of the Impian’s body structure and its standard Lotus-tuned suspension have drawn praise from Leslie, while team-mate Phil Bennett is enthusiastic about the potential of the new Proton four cylinder engine in race trim.
During the season, test driving duties will be shared by Fariqe Hairuman and Mashlino Buang, young up-and-coming Malaysian drivers fast making names for themselves. Fans not able to make it to any of the 10 circuit venues around the UK will be able to enjoy extensive coverage of the 2002 BTCC on terrestrial TV.Published 19 March 2002