Proton Putra, the World Rally Car that never was
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No, it’s not a Subaru or a 22B, or even the Prodrive WRC98. It’s the Subaru WRC car you have when you don’t have a Subaru, the Proton Putra WRC.
Developed by Prodrive in the late 1990s, it's the same Prodrive that built race and rally cars, like the Subaru World Rally Car, among 100+ other motorsport projects over the decades.
Based on an evolution of the 1998 Subaru WRC platform, the cars were built – and will remain – a prototypes for the Malaysian brand.
With the liberalisation of the WRC rules in 1997, building a WRC car was much easier and cheaper, and many manufacturers decided to get involved, particularly the smaller ones such as Peugeot, Seat and to a lesser extent, Suzuki.
Previously using Lancers as the basis for its Proton Wira rally cars, due to its ownership by Mitsubishi, Proton used a 1.8-litre 4G93 turbo four-cylinder engine with 300hp (the WRC limit of the era) in this car, basically the same engine as the Evo 4-5-6, of course an in-line four as opposed to the flat-four used in the Subaru WRC98 versions.
The Putra WRC was built to meet regulations that stipulated a minimum weight of 1,230 kg, a maximum width of 1,770 mm and maximum front and rear track widths of 1,550 mm.
Just two were built and through the exact reasoning was never published - to the point that Proton even denied the cars existed – the cars were never seen even testing, and were glimpsed at by keen eyes during factory tours in the late 1990s when the Proton Satria GTi was launched and the press toured the Proton Edar Vehicle Preparation Centre in Selangor, Malaysia.
In an about-face, Proton Motorsports has released on its Facebook page additional pictures of its 1997 World Rally Championship contender that is now a permanent addition to the Proton Motorsports Collection, joining other competition machinery of significance to the Malaysian make.