The 2011 BTCC season has ended 2 months ago, and the Proton Gen-2 / Persona, via Welch Motorsports, made their debut during the middle of the season at Snetterton in August 2011. Their progress in the BTCC is best described as mixed with high and low moments, from their biggest moment when they placed at top 5 once on practice seasons, while on the low side, they have a few DNFs due to mechanical issues.The Proton Gen-2 / persona has been built to the BTCC’s cost-cutting NGTC regulations by John Welch’s team.Read the full news from btcc.net below.Photo credit to photography-on-the.net.
WELCH PREDICT STRONG 2012
Daniel Welch says he is proud of his and his team’s achievements in their maiden season in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Welch Motorsport was something of an underdog when, on schedule, it made its debut appearance at the start of the second half of the season at Snetterton with a unique car – Proton’s Gen-2 model, built to the new Next Generation Touring Car regulations.
Despite announcing a late start to the season back in March, it was still a rush to finish off the car in time for Snetterton – indeed it only arrived at the circuit late on Friday after a brief maiden run some 150 miles away at an airfield close to the team’s base in Hampshire that afternoon.
It immediately turned heads, however, firstly with its dramatic flared wheel arches and striking colour scheme and even more so when Welch soon began circulating little more than a couple of seconds off the ultimate pace. Results would exceed expectations, repaying in particular the faith that long-time sponsor, hotel chain Marriott, and generous personal backer Glenn White had shown in the squad.
Reflecting on his season, Fleet racer Welch, son of British rallycross legend John Welch, told btcc.net: “We didn’t turn up at Snetterton in the most organised manner due to a couple of late setbacks, but I think we did the best we could given it was really a test day for us. We came away with three race finishes and immediately got a lot of media coverage and public interest – that first pit lane walkabout session at Snetterton… we were right at the end and I thought ‘no-one’s going to come down here to see us’ but we got quite a shock – we were non-stop. By Silverstone’s final round it was taking me half an hour just to make it to the toilets. Everyone wants to have a chat.
“We took a lot of pride out of what we went on to achieve. It’s been a huge learning experience for what is a very small team of people – for example, I’m also the team truckie, whereas you’ve got Jason Plato turning up in a helicopter. I’d be happy just arriving in a car!
“Seriously, to come away from the season and to know, hand on heart, we should have been comfortably in the top ten in the last two meetings… I think we have a very good platform to start from for 2012.”
Welch’s ‘to do list’ during the five race events the team contested would fill a catalogue. He added: “We came away from Snetterton with a mountain of jobs to do in time for Knockhill. Chiefly we moved the seating position so I could see properly out of the windscreen, but the list went on and on – power steering, suspension, geometry, shock absorbers… you name it, it was on there.
“The NGTC concept makes for a very technical car – it’s almost a cross between a sportscar and a Formula 3 car – developing the Proton with my engineer Toby Phillips, mechanic Andy Peck and dad has been very enjoyable.
“At Knockhill we arrived with a set-up on the car which was purely an educated guess and in the damp during free practice I was fifth and then sixth. We’d made a big jump already. Unfortunately it didn’t work in qualifying when it was dry and on race day we had various mechanical niggles.
“At Rockingham we’d moved forwards again – the car felt like it was on rails and our times through the twisty middle sector were good, but we had an engine misfire in practice which set us back, plus we realised we were struggling for straight-line speed and on race day had two steering arm failures.
“The misfire came back in qualifying on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit just as I was starting my final run – I was already up to seventh but it meant I missed that ultimate lap and slipped to 11th. Still, we were now the fastest NGTC car. Then the steering arm failure reared its ugly head again in races one and two – it certainly catches your attention when the car veers sharp left as you’re trying to turn right through Sheene Curve. It held together in race three and I had my best drive of the season from the back of the grid to just miss out on the top ten. We were excluded later for a technical infringement, but I didn’t mind too much – we’d shown we were now matching the much more developed NGTC Toyotas and Audis in terms of handling after only a couple of months.”
The season was to end on a high note as Welch achieved his first top ten result in the second of three races at Silverstone that brought down the curtain on the 2011 championship. He remembers Silverstone, though, for other reasons as he explained: “There were a few occasions in those five events when I was coming up behind people thinking ‘what on earth are you doing?’. At Silverstone there were five of us heading down the main straight together – there was a nice gap down the middle so I went for it, but then the other four all converged on me and suddenly there was no gap at all! In the BTCC you spend the whole race hanging on and there is never a moment’s rest.”
Welch believes he and his team have what it takes to become a front-running force in the coming season, yet fully accepts there’s still some way to go. He added: “Going into next year, we want to be one of the front-end runners. I’m confident as a driver I can run in the top ten on pace, but I don’t have the touring car experience of the Platos and Neals… the amount of tricks they’ve got up their sleeves. Pace-wise I don’t think I have a problem, but you always know they are going to have that one last trick to dismount you.
“Last year I was racing in Spain with 40 SEATs on the grid – this isn’t quite as manic with a mere 30. I’ve certainly learnt to rub panels, although I think there are some drivers out there who think barging people out of the way is how to overtake. But it’s been very enjoyable. Next year it’s looking like a 30-car grid and there’s no other place like it. The publicity you get from the BTCC is awesome and the atmosphere in the paddock is fantastic. It’s got a buzz about it which you miss in other forms of racing. You can take your guests for a walk and they know they are involved with a big event.
“We’ve had enquiries about running cars for other people next season, but it’s always down to budget. We wouldn’t want to cut corners. We’re here to do it properly and not just be some flash in the pan. We want to be here for the long haul and if we can expand in future to two or three cars then great.”