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The Proton Iriz R5 took its first Irish podium result at the weekend as Ollie Mellors secured a confidence-boosting third overall at the Birr Stages Rally (23 February) against top Irish Tarmac Rally Championship regulars.

Mellors, who was competing on asphalt for the first time in four years, overcame several hold-ups to set a string of top three times in the Thornbridge Brewery, Reliable Vehicle Logistics and Michelin backed Iriz R5 to take the final podium place across the treacherously wet Irish lanes.

His result sets him up perfectly for the next round of the British Rally Championship which takes place next month in Clonakilty for the West Cork Rally. Team-mate Eugene Donnelly also ensured the Proton brand enjoyed a positive weekend, taking fourth overall with John McElhinney on the notes in the sister Iriz R5.

Fresh from fourth place in the forests of the Cambrian Rally a few weeks previously, Mellors and co-driver Max Freeman would use the popular event as a shakedown ahead of the BRC counter next month. Despite a self-confessed “lack of seat time” on a sealed surface, Mellors would use Liam Egan’s example for the event and was aiming for mileage in the car rather than results during the day.

With the opening stage of the six-test event being cancelled due to a blockage, it would be stage two that offered the first clean run for Mellors. However, it would be anything but clean as he would catch an ailing front-runner with around 3 kilometres of the stage to go. Nevertheless, a third quickest time saw him slot comfortably into the podium positions.

Mellors would catch yet another slower competitor on the third test but had done enough to consolidate his position heading into the midpoint of the event. Second fastest times over two of the afternoon’s tests saw Mellors and Freeman secure an impressive third overall on their asphalt debut in the car.

“The day really couldn’t have gone much better for us really,” said an elated Mellors.

“The car was perfect all day long and despite catching those two cars this morning, it’s been a great test and shakedown for Max [Freeman] and I ahead of West Cork”.

It didn’t take Mellors long to bed into a new surface with the Iriz.

“The Proton felt at home straight away and we made a few changes in service which made it feel better still. It really didn’t feel like four years since I’d driven on Tarmac but I was a little apprehensive before the event, despite my best BRC result before this season coming at the Circuit of Ireland back in 2016. The Iriz is so positive in the lanes and inspires plenty of confidence in the faster sections, I was very impressed from the first few kilometres.

To be within shouting distance of some of the Irish Tarmac Championship guys on my first asphalt outing in the car bodes well for next month. A huge thanks to the team and of course to Liam [Egan] for allowing me to use his car. I`m very much looking forward to West Cork now.”

Image credit: CRSpics.com

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