Earlier in July, we had the chance to sit down with Proton R3 team principle Gary Lee, who revealed that the homegrown motorsports division is among the most successful racing team within the Geely empire, and one with the richest motorsports heritage.
Well, over the past weekend at the 2019 World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) grand finale at the Sepang International Circuit, we met with Geely Group Motorsport boss Alexander Murdzevski to find out what’s next for Proton R3.
According to Alex, Geely fully respects the history and heritage of every car brand that it’s involved with, and the sentiment trickles over to the motorsports family as well. In fact, after acquiring Volvo, Geely immediately created Geely Motorsport to make sure existing talents within the Polestar Cyan Racing team don’t go to waste.
And in the best interest of the growing family, Geely gave its new acquisitions free reign to do things their way, instead of “acting like a big brother” that gives directives. “Every time we come down to Malaysia, we will sit together with our family here which are Gary and the Proton R3 team, and we always listen to their plans and what they can do better for the Proton brand,” Alex explained.
“In Geely, we have a lot of positive commercial records involving motorsports, and we in turn get a lot of support with what we’re doing now. So I think the spirit and interest are there. We don’t act like a big brother and tell people what to do. You make your own choices, and if we have a suitable car in the next two to three years and it’s deemed suitable for Proton to race in the Touring Car, for sure we will share it with Proton R3,” he added.
“I think what’s unique with Proton R3 is that it’s a team with a very long history in motorsports racing. If you think about it, you have to feel proud because there aren’t many racing teams in the world that can continue to operate under the main [Proton] brand for such a long time. Proton R3 also perform consistently well. Gary and his team are good, nice people. I’m happy to have him as part of a family,” Alex added.
Proton R3 team principle, Gary Lee
When asked if there’s a chance for Proton Motorsport to make a return to the world racing stage, especially with rallying, Alex said: “Motorsports is, 90% of the time, being at the right place at the right time. When a new championship begins and you have a new product that’s suitable, you can use it as a long-term R&D investment. So it’s all about timing when talking about racing programmes.”
Meanwhile, for those who are unfamiliar with Lynk & Co, it’s actually Geely’s luxury car brand, much like what Lexus and Infiniti are to Toyota and Nissan. Cyan Racing, on the other hand, is Volvo Polestar’s technical partner and the two entities have been in motorsports for many years.
Lynk & Co Cyan Racing’s weapon of choice for the 2019 WTCR season is the 03 sedan, which only made its debut in September 2018. It’s based on the hotter 03+ variant, which is powered by a 2.0 litre Drive E engine making 254 hp and 350 Nm of torque. That’s the same output as a T5-powered Volvo, and the 03 is based on Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform.
Lynk & Co 03+, powered by Volvo’s 2.0 litre Drive E engine
Apparently, Alex said the 03+ race cars still use the factory frame and engine, and much of the internal components are exactly identical to the production car. The only thing that’s different is the fitment of a larger turbocharger, which bumps output to 350 hp and 450 Nm of torque. The race car was finished in a very short period of time, and the first test session was done by December 2018.
Fast forward to 10 rounds and 30 races later, Lynk & Co Cyan Racing won the 2019 WTCR team title, pulling ahead of runner-up BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse by 14 points. In third place was Münnich Motorsport Honda, which trailed behind by 52 points. This means Lynk & Co Cyan Racing became the first ever world title holder for a China brand, and achieved so within the first year of racing. So, what would you like Proton R3 to do next?