The R5 Rally Car Class is a great move from the FIA. This class dominates the national championships and is a great stepping stone to the World Rally Championship. Some manufacturers are doing better, their cars are dominant, and buyers have the longest queues. For others, it is harder to succeed, lacking in speed and reliability. And a new player has recently entered this highly competitive pot of Škoda, Ford, Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Citroen. Probably it is unlikely to reach heights like rivals because it is a private initiative, not a manufacturer’s project, but diversity is a welcome thing. And we’re talking about a British project where a Japanese engine sits in a chassis from Malaysia. Globalization, in other words.
Proton Iriz R5 – The latest car to receive true FIA R5 homologation, despite the Evo and Mk2 versions of the Škoda and Ford. This means that Proton is already fully eligible for WRC or ERC stages. Some other private projects have been also started to build an R5 car. The most advanced is the Mitsubishi Mirage R5, which also sought R5 homologation, but it doesn’t seem to get it. Nevertheless, quite many of Mirage are present in Sweden and Great Britain rally stages. And here the Paraguayans seek R5 homologation with the Toyota Etios R5. But only two models have been made so far, and Toyota itself has plans for the Yaris R5, so the Etios R5 is unlikely to become an international model either.
Currently, a total of five Proton Iriz R5 cars has driven in the rally stages. So far, all of their starts have been in the UK, with the exception of one where Proton was “Course car” at the Eifel Rallye Festival in Germany. The Iriz is fitted with the frequent and superb Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X engine, reduced to 1.6 liters to suit the requirements. The British praise the X-trac all-wheel-drive system, Rieger suspension, and Cosworth electronics. All of these components have been tested for hundreds of kilometers, and even Marcus Gronholm is among the testers. Thus, from 2017, when the car went public, by the end of 2019, the project had already received FIA recognition and victories on the local front.
And those victories come from Oliver Mellors, the man from the family who build this up. The MEM World Rally team, operating since 1982, began working with Proton early. Proton cars produced by MEM won the Production WRC Championship, Asian Championship, and in 2012 P.G. Andersson won the SWRC (current WRC2) Championship with the Proton Satria S2000. We’ll see how the Iriz R5 navigates its way to global glory.
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