Seven-time Finnish Rally Champion Juha Salo will join the PROTON Motorsports team for this year’s Neste Oil Rally Finland and Wales Rally GB.
The news that Salo, 36, will partner two-time Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson on each round of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship was confirmed at a press conference in Helsinki this morning. Salo’s two-rally PROTON programme is supported by principal backers Gulf Oil and Teknos, as well as a collection of 15 other sponsors.
The Finn, a two-time Group N winner on his home round of the World Rally Championship, drove the PROTON Satria-Neo S2000 for the first time in Wales on Monday, completing 160 kilometres at the wheel of the factory test car. The Jyvaskyla-based event will be his first SWRC outing in a Super 2000 car.
August’s Neste Oil Rally Finland will be the reigning Finnish Champion’s eighth start on one of world rallying’s most iconic events.
Salo said: “In the spring time I was talking with my management group about the different possibilities for Rally Finland. We saw last year it was not possible to fight with S2000 cars unless you had the same equipment. So, we contacted PROTON Motorsport and then visited them in England.
“I believe that we can get the best possible service and support from PROTON Motorsports and I have to thank them and, of course, Gulf Oil, Teknos and all my other sponsors for helping me to achieve this biggest step yet in my driving career. I believe that if I do everything right then it is possible to continue this co-operation into the future. I wouldn’t be a rally driver if I didn’t think about victory and I know that I have all the right tools to make this result. Everything is in my hands.
“It is fantastic to drive the PROTON Satria-Neo S2000. This is a top-level car and quite different to what I have been driving before. It is much more physical to drive; you need to concentrate, to keep the revs up and you have to be more aggressive. This is a real competition car, pure and simple. Everything is fantastic with the car – especially the brakes, it’s like hitting the wall when you are stopping!
“I need to use my long experience for the team in Finland, I don’t need to push myself over the limit. The experience of the car and giving PROTON a good result is more important than anything.”
PROTON Motorsports team principal Chris Mellors is equally pleased to be running a Finn in Finland. Mellors said: “Juha was very comfortable very quickly in the car during the test. He was very good to work with and has a great attitude. I’m sure he’s going to fit into the team perfectly. He’s got some incredible experience of Rally Finland and the roads we’re going to be competing on this year; you don’t win seven Finnish titles without knowing how to drive those stages! We’re looking forward to putting that experience to good use. With Juha and P-G we’ll have a very strong line-up in Finland.”
Salo will test the Satria-Neo S2000 in Finland ahead of the start of the SWRC round. Neste Oil Rally Finland (SWRC round five) runs from August 1-4 and Wales Rally GB (SWRC round six) is September 13-16.
PROTON Motorsports now focuses its attention on the fourth round of the SWRC, Rally New Zealand, which begins in Auckland next Thursday (June 21). P-G Andersson and PROTON’s reigning FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Alister McRae drive the factory Satria-Neo S2000s on the North Island.