Tejpar takes European Rally Championship plunge
Two-time British Ladies Rally Champion Nabila Tejpar will make the biggest leap of her career in 2021 as she is set to tackle the FIA European Rally Championship at the wheel of a Proton Iriz R5.
Despite having never driven the Proton competitively so far, Tejpar, 27 from Maldon in Essex will make the upgrade from her usual Peugeot 208 R2 to the all-wheel-drive top-flight machine, contesting one of the most prestigious championships in the world, starting at Rally Poland in June.
To aid her transition to the powerful Proton, two-time British Rally Champion Matt Edwards will co-drive in the Envirologik backed Iriz during the season, ensuring her adaption to the new machine is as seamless as possible.
“This really is an exciting return to the driver seat for me after being out of action for over 12 months because of the pandemic,” says Tejpar.
“It’s undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced in my career and I don’t think anything about this will be easy at all. But it feels the right time to try and push myself and my career forwards and using an up to date R5 car such as the Proton on a series like the European Rally Championship is the right way forward for me right now”.
Tejpar has spent her entire career on front-wheel-drive machinery, stepping into the British Rally Championship in a Fiesta R2, she secured the Ladies title in 2017 before heading into Europe to contest the hard-fought Peugeot Iberica Cup in her 208 R2.
She is no stranger to the ERC however, having tackled selected rounds of the series in 2019 with outings in the Canaries, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary. But now Tejpar will take on the coveted ERC in the same machinery that leads the way in the British and European Championships.
The Proton Iriz R5 is a huge step onwards from Tejpar’s usual Peugeot 208 with a four-wheel-drive, a sequential gearbox and a 1600cc turbocharged engine producing 350 brake horsepower at her disposal. She acquired the car back in late 2019 but COVID prevented her from using the impressive example in competition.
“It was always on the cards that I was going to step up to an R5 and with the Asian links to the Proton brand in Malaysia it was the perfect choice for me,” she says.
“I`d had a test or two in the car which went well and I felt at home pretty much straight away. In fact, in some areas, it was much easier to drive than the Peugeot, very controllable and reactive. We were all set to launch a campaign in the British Rally Championship in 2020 but COVID struck pretty much as we were leaving for West Cork so I could only contest selected rounds in Portugal last year. That made up my mind for our 2021 plans really”.
The FIA European Rally Championship is recognised as just one step away from the World Rally Championship tour and the feeder series into the top-flight. However, in its own right, the ERC is one of the most well respected and competitive championships in the world and draws a significant number of championship contenders to the series each year on its gruelling calendar of events across Europe.
“I’ve been competing in Europe for over two years now so that’s not an issue for me any longer. It will be all about learning the car and adapting what I’ve learnt in the Peugeot and putting that into the Iriz and see how we get on. Having Matt [Edwards] co-driving will certainly help as his experience is second to none. I’m essentially not looking for big results this season, just push myself as far as I can and learn as much as possible for the future. I`m really excited to go going after so long out of the driver’s seat, it’s going to be an exciting season ahead”.