May 5, 2009 With the World Rally Championship (WRC) switching over to S2000-based cars next year, we thought it may be a good time to have a closer look at what has proved to be the fastest S2000 rally car so far, the Mellors Elliott Motorsport (MEM) build Proton Satria Neo Super 2000. In the hands of Irish driver Niall McShea, the Proton caused quite a stir on the first WRC event earlier this year, Rally Ireland, when it stormed into a podium position on day one, ahead of a full field of WRC machinery.
Super 2000 is an international motor racing industry (FIA) vehicle category for both touring and rally cars that have had at least 2500 produced in the past year. The specification is limited to 2.0 liter – normally aspirated – engines, with a maximum of 8,500 rpm. There are slightly different regulations for touring cars and rally cars with four wheel drive being allowed in rally cars, with a control specification 6-speed sequential gearbox that can be supplied by one of three companies.
While S2000 cars, such as the MG S2000, have been contesting national rally championships since 2007, any normally aspirated 2.0 liter able to beat turbocharged world rally cars with the world's best drivers behind the wheel is quite impressive. Most Proton road cars are thinly disguised Mitsubishis – but with Tommi Mäkinen having dominated the Group A rally era, winning the World Rally driver's title four years in a row at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer, perhaps the performance of the Proton S2000 isn't so surprising.
The new Proton Satria Neo Super 2000 rally car starts off as a bare chassis delivered to the MEM workshop. Here, 35 meters of lightweight Chrome Moly tubing is TIG-welded (tungsten inert gas) in to form a roll cage, which doubles as a crew safety cell, and also provide vastly improved torsional bodyshell stiffness. Driver and co-driver seat position mounts are welded to the floor and are fixed at the rearmost mounting points to maximize the car’s weight distribution. The pedal box and steering column are both adjustable to suit different pilots. The base Satria design allows for the smallest frontal area and lowest roof height in the class.
As the Satria road car is front wheel drive and the rally car is four wheel drive, a new much larger transmission tunnel is needed. The new tunnel is made extra large where it joins the front firewall to allow the exhaust headers a straight run off the cylinder head.
No standard components are retained in the suspension, as all cross members and lower control arms are fabricated from TIG-welded Chrome Moly tubing. MEM’s engineers have designed the suspension with a relatively conventional layout of wishbone and MacPherson strut bar, with travel maximized to the extent that the bump stops are the only part that prevents the body sills hitting the ground on full bump travel. This translates into both an ultra-low tarmac set-up, with go-kart levels of body roll and a long-travel gravel set-up, which enables the car to soak up the biggest bumps. With various anti-roll bars available for both front and rear, the suspension set-up can be easily fine-tuned for any rally surface or type.
Brakes are 4-piston Alcon forged calipers, front and rear, with 300-mm vented discs all round for gravel, and 350-mm front discs used on tarmac. The 18”x 8” wheels are used for tarmac while 15”x 6.5” alloys are used for gravel.
The 2.0-liter Proton Super 2000 engine is based on the 1.8-litre engine fitted to Proton’s Waja model, and it has been developed by MEM’s engineers to produce a reliable 278 bhp@7600rpm, with a usable power band from 5,500 to 8,500rpm. The 6-speed sequential 4WD Super 2000 transmission is the 532 version, supplied by Xtrac. The fuel system features a quick-change fuel control cassette (which includes all the fuel pumps, filters and valves), attached to the MEM-designed FIA FT3 safety fuel cell to aid rapid maintenance in the event of a fuel system failure.
The latest technology is used in the electrical systems with a state-of-the-art multiplexed wiring system capable of managing the entire car’s electronics from a central unit ideally placed in the center of the car, in-between the driver and co-driver. Apart from the weight-saving reduction that this achieves, it is simple to operate and, with automatically resetting circuit breakers, this is technology and reliability at its best.