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Skaife drives Proton on Top Gear

When Mark Skaife drove the Satria on Top Gear, Proton Australia company executives were justifiably nervous for their car.

The experience will go swimmingly for the brand, or it will backfire and become an embarrassing mistake.

So when V8 Supercar driver, Mark Skaife, got behind the wheel of a Proton Satria recently for his stint as a celebrity driver on the local version of the UK hit Top Gear, Proton Australia company executives were justifiably nervous for their car.

However managing director, John Startari, says the whole experience was a pleasant surprise.

"When you get people like Mark Skaife commenting on how good our car is, that's been beneficial," he says.

"We are happy to sign on for the next series."

Apart from Skaife, Startari appreciates the feedback from the other celebrity drivers who have completed the track drive.

The Top Gear Satria has sailed through its various track challenges without missing a beat, apart from a few minor scrapes.

"Again, that's good news," Startari says.

Startari says that he was initially sceptical about supplying a 1.6-litre Satria for the show, based on the experience of the UK show, which used a Suzuki Liana and in recent episodes a Chevrolet Lacetti, sold here as the Holden Viva.

"I was a bit concerned about how the car would be portrayed, based on how the UK show treats its car," he says.

"But the producers reassured me that it would be fairly treated and used appropriately."

But the positive exposure has been a good thing and is helping Startari build the case for a GTi version of the Satria.

With the aide of Top Gear, Startari is keen to reignite interest in a Satria GTi and get them into showrooms next year.

"We also want to leverage our Lotus relationship after we build some market share," Startari says.

But Startari says the company needs the right engine, whether it be a four cylinder turbocharged unit or high-performance naturally aspirated engine.

The company showed off a tricked up Satria "Desire" concept at the Sydney Motor Show two years ago but until recently progress on the GTi had stalled.

The Top Gear exposure may have been just the ticket to kickstart discussions with Malaysia and get the car back on track.