Nick Jones and race partner Scott Malvern returned to track action in the British GT Championship at Snetterton in Norfolk last weekend. The duo participated in two one-hour races in the SD Sealants Team Parker Racing Porsche Cayman Clubsport.
After a very encouraging practice session on Saturday morning (in less than perfect track conditions) the duo actually topped the GT4 class times for a while, and were very pleased to finish the session in third – just a few hundredths of a second slower than the class leading Ginetta G55.
Unfortunately, a substantial downpour followed by warm sunshine changed circuit conditions and whilst the pairing were able to lap two seconds faster on an improved track, the class leading Ginettas and McLarens were able to gain three seconds, leaving Nick & Scott at a disappointing 13th & 12th in their qualification sessions respectively.
The first one-hour race took place late Sunday morning in warm sunny conditions, with Nick handling the opening stint. Nick made a good start in gaining positions, but on the 2nd lap was tagged from the rear by the Macmillan Team Aston Martin Vantage, driven by William Phillips. This caused considerable damage to the rear offside wheel and severely compromised handling.
From then on, it was a case of the team doing the best they could with a damaged car, and nursing it to the end of what would prove to be a very long race. Thankfully, Nick adapted his driving style and, after losing time, began to regain his track position towards the squabbling pack ahead.
After the driver change-over on the half hour mark, Scott became involved in a race long scrap with the rapid UltraTek Nissan 370Z driven by the experienced Martin Plowman. Despite the obvious power advantage of the Nissan, particularly in a straight line, Scott was able to pressurise Plowman into making a mistake at the final corner and gain position when Plowman drove off the circuit. Despite Plowman catching back up to the rear of Scott for the final two laps, Scott was able to put in a defensive performance to keep the Nissan at bay and secure 10th place in the GT4 class and 5th in the Pro-Am division. He classified 20th overall from 28 starters.
As ever, there was a busy pit lane walkabout and autograph signing session before race two got underway just after 4pm. This time, the order of drivers was swapped – meaning that Scott handled the first stint.
Like Nick, he made a good start gaining places but also had minor contact with the Academy Motorsport Aston Martin driven by Matt Nicoll-Jones.
Threatened initially by the Black Bull McLaren of Adhil Rabindra, Scott soon pulled clear and began to challenge the rapid Optimum Ginetta G55 driven by Mike Robinson. He held position when handing over to Nick at the halfway mark.
Unfortunately, a poorly timed safety car worked against the pair, particularly by picking up the leading GT3 car and waving through the GT4 front runners which effectively put Nick and Scott a lap down.
After the restart, Nick came under pressure from the Century Motorsport Ginetta, but was able to hang on to achieve the best result so far for the Porsche, coming in 6th in GT4, 4th in Pro-Am and 15th overall – being the first non Ginetta or McLaren among the finishers.
The team were pleased with the result and both Nick and Scott felt they had gotten everything possible out of the car. Scott commented post-race, “Obviously the balance of power is still favouring the Ginettas and McLarens, and even the Nissans now seem to have more power. It is not ideal being the only Porsche on the grid as there is no benchmark for us, but we hope the organisers will examine the data and make some adjustments to the formula. Nick did a really great job in both of his stints today.”
Nick added, “Unfortunately the safety car situation worked against us, and I’m sure that we could have had a better result had it not been for that but we have to take the positives. It’s the best result we’ve had with this car and I’m very pleased with my performance and that of the whole team.”
The Championship now moves on to its headline event of the season: The Silverstone Three Hour 500km race, which takes place on the famous Grand Prix circuit over the weekend of the 10th & 11th June.