You may have known that Welch motorsports has fielded a Proton Gen-2 (the Persona to most Malaysians) into the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in their first ever race in Snetterton. The round 4 of this series will see the Proton Gen-2, running under Next Generation Touring Car (NGTC) classification racing against the Chervolet Cruze, Honda Civics, BMW 3 series, Audi A4, Toyota Avensis, Seat Leon and Ford Focus.
The NGTC means all cars will be using a standardized engines and gearboxes, introduced to reduce racing cost and to allow new manufacturers to enter the BTCC. Which explains Welch’s intention to bring the Proton to BTCC. However, Proton is the forth entry of the NGTC, like the Toyota, Audi and Vauxhall and the NGTC spec cars are struggling to match the faster Chervolets and Hondas, and most races ended in mechanical retirements.
So how did Welch’s team fare last weekend? To be honest, not too bad. The team qualified in 20th out of 26 cars, just 2 seconds slower than the leading car. The team targeted to finish all 3 races on the weekend. The good news is they did, despite mostly on the bottom ranks. In race one, the Gen-2 finished in 22nd, while on the following race team driver Dan Welch steered the car into 18th place. Race three, the Gen-2 was last at 19th place. Not bad considering a number of cars did not finish any of the three races due to accidents or mechanical retirements.
It is applaudable effort considering the car was not tested and they did not face mechanical retirements, which usually haunts new teams. However, the car pace was slow hence the team needs to spend some time on the drawing board, to make the car competitive. Decent sponsorship from Marriot Hotel should show the team is funded quite well, and hopefully Proton or Group Lotus will show some support to this small team.
As quoted from the team’s driver Dan Welch “We’re going to come here tp use it as a shakedown, learn what’s going on, learn the car – it’s a totally new concept for everybody so we need to learn and we’re already a bit closer than we thought we’d be, so it can’t be bad.”
The next round of BTCC will be a month away in Knockhill, Scotland. Expect our regular coverage of the Proton Gen-2 on the BTCC!