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Making its return to the British Rally Championship for the first time since 2016, Ollie Mellors and Ian Windress gave the Proton Iriz R5 a successful series debut, narrowly missing out on a podium to take fourth overall at the season-opening Cambrian Rally (8th February).

Mellors secured a solid points haul for the Thornbridge Brewery, Reliable Vehicle Logistics and Michelin backed Iriz R5 to kick start their maiden championship assault in the newly homologated example.

Team-mate James Williams enjoyed a trouble-free R5 debut to bring the sister car home in fifth overall, rounding out a successful weekend for the Mellors Elliot Motorsport-built Protons.

Winning four gravel event’s in 2019 was the perfect warm-up for the Iriz R5 and the Derbyshire based firm would elect to contest the ultra-competitive British Rally Championship in 2020. With their sights ultimately set on a World Rally Championship campaign in the future, the BRC offers the ultimate proving ground for the Proton with some of the quickest drivers in Europe mounting a campaign on the six-round series.

Mellors is no stranger to the North Wales stages, having won the Cambrian Rally in 2018 whilst in the development phase of the Iriz but with the BRC heavy hitters present in 2020, it would be a tough prospect to repeat.

With the car untested and only turning a wheel for the first time when it arrived in Llandudno, Mellors would have to use the opening stages to acclimatise to the brand new car, launching the Michelin shod Iriz to fifth fastest on the opening Crafnant test.

With only one service during the day, the opportunity to make changes to the car’s set up were limited. Despite the sprint-style event offering only 43 miles, Mellors continued to increase his pace with fourth fastest over the longest stage of the event, Penmachno.

The Great Orme Tarmac test before service was Mellors’ at his best, taking second overall time around the cliff-edge stage in Llandudno to reach the halfway point of the event where he started the day.

A damaged hub on the rough penultimate test of the event forced Mellors to make some hasty roadside repairs, leaving the Iriz to head into the final stage with only front brakes. Despite the imbalance in the car, Mellors kept his cool to secure a confidence-boosting fourth overall on the Proton’s BRC debut.

“This really is a great start for the Proton Iriz R5, for me and the team this weekend,” said Mellors.

“The team worked flat out to get the car ready over the last few weeks and literally finished building it on Friday afternoon. It had 15 miles on it when I started the rally and we just came in and set a top-five time with no prior testing. In my mind, that’s an impressive start”.

Mellors believes there is much more to come from the squad this season.

“The car is very capable and we know what it can do. There were so many variables this weekend, I hadn’t done a recce and made my own notes for three years or so and at this level that is the kind of thing that costs time. Our perfect storm would have been a podium but taking fourth really is a fantastic achievement and it was great to have James [Williams] in fifth in the sister car”.

The 2019 Junior BRC third-placed man Williams and co-driver Dai Roberts enjoyed a promising R5 debut in the Iriz to ensure two Proton’s finished in the top five.

The next round of the championship heads to Ireland for the West Cork Rally in March.

Image credits: Chicane Media

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