The Proton brand will once again be a sight on the Motorsport UK British Rally Championship tour as the Malaysian car manufacturer returns to the series with Ollie Mellors and Mellors Elliot Motorsport [MEM].
Driving the firms Iriz R5, Mellors and co-driver Max Freeman will make a bid for the prestigious British title just 12 months after Proton made its return to the series after a four-year sabbatical.
With a confidence boosting start to their debut BRC campaign in the new model last February at the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally, Mellors was primed for a battle at the front of the hotly contested series before COVID forced the cancellation of the championship.
Aiming to pick up where he left off last season, Mellors will bring the Proton name back to the BRC and is aiming for his first successful BRC campaign since 2016.
“It’s fantastic to be back in the British Rally Championship once again with the Proton Iriz R5 and we are very much hoping we can show its capabilities this season,” said Mellors.
“We have been waiting for the 2021 season to start pretty much since March last year after committing to the BRC last season and we felt pretty good after fourth place at the first round in Wales. Of course, we haven’t managed much since so really feel we need to pick up where we left off and have another go”.
Proton has a rich rallying heritage in the UK’s top-flight series which stems back to the 1990s with its front-wheel-drive Satria. After turning its attention to four-wheel-drive, Mellors Elliot Motorsport would build and run the brand’s motorsport programme, winning the 2002 World Rally Championship Production Cup and five Asia Pacific Rally Championship titles.
The Proton Iriz R5 is the only car in the world to be Homologated by the FIA in both right and left-hand drive and the impressive machine is built by the MEM squad in Bakewell, Derbyshire.
With assistance in the car’s development by World Rally Champion Marcus Gronholm, the Iriz R5 has yet to enjoy a season-long campaign but Mellors will aim for a full assault on the BRC in 2021 in the Michelin shod-example.
“If you look at the entry list for the first round of the series you can see that this will be the ultimate test for the Iriz in the UK this year,” says Mellors.
“COVID knocked us back last year and the plans for the continuation of the car, not just in the UK but globally. It’s meant that we had to take stock and see what the best way was to get the Iriz R5 back out into the limelight. When you see there is competition from pretty much every other manufacturer this season it’s almost like contesting a WRC event so the BRC fits in with that desire perfectly”.
The opening round of the season sees crews tackle the Neil Howard Stages which is based entirely at Oulton Park Race Circuit at the end of May and Mellors is no stranger to this type of event.
“MEM is a partner of the Motorsport News Circuit Championship and I`ve done a few events before to keep my hand in. I quite enjoy them to be honest, but I think everyone may underestimate how hard these rallies can bite back. The plan will certainly be to get a good start to the season under our belts at Oulton see where the pace is.”
“It’s great to be back behind the wheel and back in the BRC with Proton and I`m hoping we can prove the potential of the Iriz against the best of the British Championship competitors”.