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Richie Dalton has suffered another heart-breaking kick in the teeth in his plans to debut his brand new Ford Fiesta Proto.

Richie Dalton's Fiesta Proton was performing well in testing, until engine problems intervened and cut the test short.The Sydney-based Irishman was scheduled to debut his long-awaited car at last weekend’s Narooma Forest Rally, but engine problems in testing put an end to those plans.

“That bloody car has my heart broken,” Dalton told RallySport Magazine.

“It’s looking like another two months until we’re out in it again.”

After a long list of problems during the car’s build program, the first of which were caused by shoddy workmanship from an auto electrician who was given the job of wiring the car, Dalton finally got behind the wheel of the Fiesta last week.

“Everything was going well and the car was feeling fantastic, but after about 10 laps of our test track smoke started billowing from the engine bay and I thought we had blown an engine.”

The problem was traced to the engine block. Specially made for the car’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo engine, the block had been machined for a dry sump, but Dalton’s team had been assured that it would work with a wet sump set-up.

It soon became apparent that it didn’t.

“The company that manufactured the block were quick to put their hands up and admit that it is a design fault,” Dalton explained.

“And while they’re supplying us with a new block with bigger ports, we won’t have that for at least five weeks, meaning our plans to enter the car in the final three rounds of the New Zealand Rally Championship have been thrown up in the air.

“At this stage the most likely scenario is that we will have the car ready for the final round, Rally New Zealand, in November.”

Before the engine problems, Dalton says the new Fiesta felt great and he thinks he has a really good package.

“It felt fantastic, and I’m really positive about the future, but we have to get these problems sorted out first.

“We could have put a standard Evo 9 engine in the car in the meantime, but it’s 23kg heavier and much of the work we’ve done in building the car is to reduce weight.

“The engine sits right over the front axles, and we’ve already found that reducing the weight makes a significant difference to the handling.

“I’d prefer to wait and make sure the car is right from the outset.”

To keep his hand in during the long wait for the Fiesta to be ready, Dalton and co-driver, John Allen, will enter the Rally of the Bay (NSW Rally Championship round in Batemans Bay) in his Duratec-engined Ford Escort, and he also has an eye on Rally Australia in mid-November.

“I’d also like to enter Rally Australia in something.

“It’s been such a frustrating year that I’m keen to get out there and compete - no matter what it’s in.”

- Peter Whitten

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