PROTON'S PG Andersson enjoyed an inspiring opening day by emerging fastest throughout the first four special stages in the Rally New Caledonia yesterday.
Andersson won three of the day's four special stages, stamping his authority from the first 16.8km 'Gadji' special stage to finish 1.6 seconds ahead of the two Skoda Fabia S2000s of Chris Atkinson and Gaurav Gill, with Proton teammate Alister McRae in fourth place.
Andersson was quickest in the Satria Neo S2000 as he swept through the longest special stage of the day, a tricky section with many twisty uphill as well as downhill sections.
In SS Two, Andersson was a clear three seconds faster than Atkinson, completing the run in a time of 10 mins 15.7 secs.
McRae, however, was forced to bow out after SS Two as a result of damage to his car.
He managed to drive the Satria Neo S2000 out of the stage but with a 25km drive and two special stages to go, the damage was too extensive for him to continue.
McRae will restart Leg 2 under the Super Rally format.
"We were flat out and on attack mode from the start. The stages are incredibly exciting and the car felt unbelievably fast and planted through the twisty stages," said Andersson, who in SS Three, again clocked the fastest time ahead of Atkinson.
The Swedish driver, however, missed out on making a clean sweep of the day's four special stages, finishing three seconds adrift of the Skodas of Gill who was fastest and Atkinson.
Proton is looking to establish back- to-back victory in New Caledonia, having won the rally last year.
Leg 2 of the rally continues with another nine special stages today while the third and final day of rallying will involve six special stages, including the longest which is a 24.41km charge through Pirogues Almameto.