“If Proton doesn’t give us a good road car, we can’t build a good racecar.” Not just further testament to the already proven notion that Protons in general always punch well above their weight class with respect to ride and handling as well as driving dynamics.
That was the head of Proton R3, Gary Lee, laying out the foundation for the motorsport arm’s success on the track. A good road car will always translate into a dynamic race car during the transition from road to race and Proton R3 are making a killing on track courtesy of a solid base from the factory floor.
Motorsports is a proven platform for manufacturers to not only test their cars in an extreme environment but also serves as a real-world testbed for new technology and solutions that can trickle down to the production versions.
It’s the very foundation of the marketing idiom “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” Don’t you dare roll your eyes though. We’re all more accustomed to having those words uttered in the same light as more premium performance brands but Proton are doing the expression justice of the highest order.
On the back of a triumphant 2019 that saw them capture the Malaysia Championship Series (MCS) and subsequently the Sepang 1,000km (S1K) Endurance Race; the latter their third in a row and fifth overall, you’d have to be an internet troll to argue otherwise.
Mitchell Cheah and Fariqe Hairuman won the 2019 S1K in a R3 Iriz while Syafiq Ali and Admi Shahrul were a close second in a new R3 Saga. The inaugural batch of an all-ladies team of finished seventh overall after starting 26th in an additional R3 Saga completed just in the nick of time for the race.
Success on the track is a definite image boost for the road-going version and that inevitably helps push their performance on the showroom floor. Furthermore, there’s an undeniable sense of pride for owners in owning and driving something from the same stable; even more so if it’s the exact same model.
Further cementing the link between the R3 racecars and the ones you or I can walk into a showroom and buy is the fact that all the race machines begin life as a completed production model with a full interior.
Once in the hands of R3, the cars are stripped down and work begins on transforming it into a full-blown racecar. Being a works team, the onus is entirely on them for parts development as well as research and development.
“Many of the racecar components are engineered and produced inhouse. Since we’re the manufacturers of the cars, we can’t turn to anyone else for performance components so it’s all done by us,” said Osman Jailani, the technical head of R3.
“Development begins with the 3D diagrams of the car to determine suspension pick-up points and mountings as well as areas that can be lightened or may require additional strengthening for safety. Even the drivers position is adjusted for optimal weight balance,” added Gary.
Being works racecars developed right here on our shores, this very fact also makes the R3 Saga and Iriz probably the fastest and most finely-tuned racecars of their model anywhere in the world.
Race prep typically begins months before or even at the start of the year to get everything sorted for the race, especially if a new build is involved. Such was the case this year with the new Saga and Iriz that proved to be winners right out of the box.
The winning machines are all new and built ground-up from the new 2019 facelifts of the models. Once the team is happy with the build do they head out for practice. This session we managed to snag some pit passes to was held prior to the fifth and final round of the 2019 MCS calendar and doubled up as testing for the 2019 S1K that was a couple of weeks away at the time.
It also gave the ladies’ team an opportunity to get some seat time and prepare for their first race under the R3 banner as the inaugural batch of the MSF-R3 Lady Drivers Search.
Furthermore, Proton R3 does its part to give back to the community as well. Working closely with the DRB-Hicom University, 10 students from the higher education’s Automotive Technology diploma and Mechanical Engineering (Automotive Service Technology) degree programs are selected to be part of the crew for the race for proper motorsports exposure.
If you’re still doubting the “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” ethos, numbers are a surefire way to determine success. Undoubtedly, Proton R3’s performance on track has contributed significantly to Iriz sales increasing three-fold and the Saga collecting over 35,000 bookings since its launch.
“Our S1K win was a testament to the performance and durability of Proton cars, the teamwork and professionalism of everyone involved,” concluded Gary.