Proton drivers Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson lost out in a race against a helicopter as they prepared for the second round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in Australia on Wednesday morning.
The pair were driving their Satria Neo S2000s in the promotional event at an airport close to the base for this weekend's International Rally of Queensland. The car won one race, but the 300hp machine had no answer to the Eurocopter's 1500bhp in the other two. Atkinson admitted the result was a disappointment.
"It's a shame," he said. "We got him off the line and then at the turnaround, but our car's geared for the forest stages which are coming this weekend."
Atkinson and McRae dominated the opening APRC round in Malaysia last month, taking first and third, respectively, in their Satrias. The pair tested earlier this week and Atkinson added: "The engine feels stronger again from Malaysia, it's more driveable. And the chassis and suspension feel very, very good."
The Proton pair dominated last year's Rally of Queensland, winning 15 from 18 stages, but a combination of big rocks and mistakes from the drivers kept them off the top step of the podium.
"We showed how quick we can be on this event last year," said Atkinson. "And this year we want to finish the job off. It's not going to be easy, there's some good competition out as always, but these stages are more flowing and should suit the S2000 car more than the stop-start nature of the roads in Malaysia."
The rally is based just north of Atkinson's family home in Queensland.
"I think we'll have plenty of family and friends out watching," said the former Subaru WRC star. "That does raise expectations, but nobody wants to win as much as we do."