This weekend's Malaysian GP marks the second 'home' event of the year (the first being Donington) for the Proton Team KR and their new V5 - which took its first GP points one week ago at Motegi.

Nobuatsu Aoki's 14th was a landmark achievement for the seven-race-old prototype, after a gruelling and fully public development programme. Now the Sepang race gives Aoki and team-mate Jeremy McWilliams another chance to demonstrate progress, in the home of the team's principal backers, Proton.

"We have a few new parts for this race - new exhausts for better engine performance, and a new fairing that should improve the aerodynamic performance," said team founder and owner Kenny Roberts, World 500cc Champion from 1978 to 1980.

"Back in Britain, engineers are working on a new design that will fix the problems that were designed in to the first version. You won't see any big improvements until then, but the bike has been getting better all the time," he added. "The thing that hurt us most was racing, rather than being able to concentrate on developing the machine in private."

Improvements have come race by race. Before the Motegi GP, the howling racers were already knocking on the door of the top 15. Detail improvements to electronic engine mapping and intake design brought a significant improvement in mid-range power, while a new slipper clutch solved problems with corner entry. All these improved rideability.

The most visible of the improvements in Malaysia is a new nose-piece for the fairing, lower and smaller than the earlier version, with the 'shoulders' taken away from either side of the screen.

"This track is okay for us until the last section, with the straights linked with hairpins, but I think we can be very close. A lot depends on how effective the new fairing is," said McWilliams, who crashed out with brake failure at Motegi. "But the weather means that anything could happen. Especially with the race at 3:30, which seems to be the time it starts raining most afternoons. Our Bridgestone tyres are good in hot conditions, if it stays dry. The bike's okay in the wet too, with the latest improvements to the clutch. We'll see how it turns out."

"Our chances here seem as good as at Motegi, and maybe better," enthused Aoki. "Motegi is a typical stop-and-go circuit, which is hard for us. Here we have more corners, and that gives us more chance. We have some new parts here, and I will try 130 percent, even more than usual, because this is Proton's home track."

The Malaysian GP is the middle of a trio of gruelling flyaway races. Seven days later the 15th round takes place at Phillip Island in Australia, with the final round a fortnight later at Valencia in Spain.

 

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