Nick Jones and Scott Malvern suffered another bitter dose of bad luck in the British GT Championship round at Brands Hatch last weekend as damage to their Solseal-backed Mercedes-AMG GT4 ruled them out of what promised to be a strong result.
Contact from a GT3 car in the pack damaged the exhaust of the Team Parker Racing-run Mercedes-AMG GT4, leading to a major loss in power for the majority of the two-hour race. That meant Nick and Scott were powerless to fight for the Pro-Am class podium, and saw their chances of retaining their championship title slip away as a result.
The weekend began on all the right notes, with Nick and Scott putting the Mercedes top of the overall GT4 timesheets during first practice, despite the team having to work on an issue with overheating brakes.
Qualifying promised even more, with Nick putting in a great performance in the first segment of the session, going second fastest in the Pro-Am class and 11th overall – his times comparing well with the higher-rated ‘Silver’ drivers and his best being only 0.8s away from outright pole position. Scott then set the fourth fastest time of the entire session to ensure the Solseal Mercedes would start fifth overall and second in the GT4 Pro-Am class on the combined times, crucially right behind the class-leading Aston Martin of Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman.
When the lights went out to get Sunday’s two-hour race underway, Nick made a terrific start to hustle his way through the traffic on the opening lap to run seventh overall, crucially passing the Pro-Am leader Fletcher in the process. Nick then proceeded to soak up pressure from the Aston Martin for the following laps, before eventually crafting a useful one-second advantage over his rival. Right then, all looked well.
However, the race was turned on its head when a lengthy safety car period was called to clear the wreckage of Glynn Geddie’s crashed Bentley Continental GT3, which had been pitched into the barriers at Dingle Dell after contact when lapping a GT4 car.
With GT4 runners mixed into the line with the faster GT3 cars, the restart would be unpredictable, and proved incredibly costly for Nick, who was rammed by a GT3 car when the race went green again, pushing the exhaust of the Mercedes back on itself and causing serious pressure problems within the system.
Nick fought on as best he could, despite the engine dramatically losing power each time he changed gear. The chance of the win was gone but, knowing that even a handful of points can make all the difference in endurance racing, Nick kept circulating, eventually getting to the pit window in 16th overall and fourth in class.
With the car back, the Team Parker crew set about trying to repair the damaged exhaust, but it cost the car a chunk of time that would be near impossible to recover. Scott rejoined, and made some good progress up the order, pulling off some great passing moves in the tightly bunched pack, but the extent of the Mercedes’ problems meant he could only rise to 13th overall and fifth in the Pro-Am order.
With the rival Aston Martin going on to win the race, Nick and Scott’s title defence is over, but there’s still one final race this year – at Donington Park in September – for them to go and show the kind of pace that made them champions in the first place.
Nick Jones said: “I’m just absolutely gutted, this just hasn’t been our year. I was really happy with the first stages of my stint and was doing all I could do, getting in front of the rival Aston Martin and the lap times and car felt good. But then the safety car really screwed us so we lost a lot of time to the leader anyway, and then being hit by the GT3 car did for us. The damage to the rear was pretty bad and each time I changed gear the engine would just bog down and I’d have absolutely no power. It’s such a shame, but that’s motor racing. We’ve still got one more race this year, and we’ll be out to win it.”
Scott Malvern added: “It’s just been another one of those weekends. Luck simply hasn’t been with us. Once again we had the pace to fight for the overall podium this weekend, and once again we paid the price for something outside of our control. Nick’s stint was great. He took the fight to the higher-rated drivers and was leading the class well until he was hit. I’m not sure how he even kept going because the car was almost undriveable when I got into it. To keep the pressure up I was having to rev the engine so hard and was getting alarms everywhere because of it. He did brilliantly to even keep it running. We deserved more this weekend, but we’ll patch the car up and be ready to go again at Donington.”
The final round of this year’s British GT Championship takes place at Donington Park on the weekend of September 14/15.