Proton MEM team principal Chris Mellors has promised Alister McRae the quickest Satria Neo S2000 his firm has produced as the Scot returns home for this week's Rally of Scotland.
The Intercontinental Rally Challenge finale will be one of the most important events McRae has contested on his home soil, but Mellors is confident he will have the right car – with the Proton arriving in time for Thursday night's start in Perth with modifications to the engine and a new batch of gearbox ratios.
Former British Rally Champion McRae will test the latest-specification Proton for the first time in Loch Ard on Wednesday afternoon.
Mellors said: "The modifications to the engine will give Alister more torque and more power from the engine – and the new gearbox ratios will match the engine better than ever. We're very excited about these latest developments."
Allied to the new parts, the Proton has also benefited from uprated dampers from Dynamics. "The dampers were on the test rig for a long time at Dynamics," said Mellors. "And we tested them in Wales earlier this month and they worked really well. We're riding the rough stuff much better and there's generally more traction from the car. It's all looking very positive. This is the quickest and the best specification Proton we've built so far. The car's really starting to show its form now."
The Proton team came within an ace of scoring its first FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship podium on last week's China Rally, where McRae would have been third had it not been for a minor steering problem late in the event. McRae is upbeat about being back home.
"It's great to be back," he said. "And it's great to be competing regularly again. Chris is right about the Proton, we're really starting to see that potential coming through now. It's very exciting.
"The Scottish stages will really suit these S2000 cars – much more than China did. China was tight and twisty, where these cars really like the fast and flowing stuff we've got coming up. The one thing that was similar from China to Scotland was the weather: It was pouring with rain in the Far East and it looks like it'll probably be the same at home. I'm looking forward to testing the new parts on the car tomorrow and then I'll start the rally chasing a podium result.
"Obviously, it's going to be quite tough, guys like Kris [Meeke] and Guy [Wilks] have been in these kinds of cars all year, and then there's Keith Cronin who has made a good season in the British Championship – and he's young enough to be able to switch from Group N to a Super 2000 car without any problems. It's going to be tough competition at the front, that's for sure."