The final British GT round at Donington Park promised much for Solseal-backed racers Nick Jones and Scott Malvern, but they were once again dealt a cruel hand as a series of issues outside of their control denied them a top-three finish in the GT4 Pro-Am championship.
Despite having been in a position to fight for overall wins at the majority of rounds this year, Scott and Nick went into the ‘Donington Decider’ unable to defend their 2018 GT4 Pro-Am title after a series of technical issues and bad luck conspired to deny them almost certain wins several times already this term.
However, a top-three finish in the points was still a distinct possibility, but Lady Luck once again didn’t visit the Team Parker Racing garage.
Donington should have been a strong round for the Solseal Mercedes-AMG GT4, with its mixture of fast-flowing corners suiting the 4-litre biturbo machine. During the earlier visit to the track this year, Malvern demonstrated the car’s ability to full effect, blowing the entire GT4 field away in qualifying, only for damage in the race to ruin any hopes of a strong result. Once again last weekend, the pair’s early promise went unrewarded through no fault of their own.
Problems hindered the car during practice, with both Nick and Scott being limited in track time by a mysterious engine issue that was noticeably sapping the car’s power, especially in a straight line. After both drivers were hampered in qualifying, Team Parker and AMG’s technicians investigated the issue, eventually tracking it down to a broken spark plug. It necessitated a full engine flush to clear as much internal debris as possible, and the car was good to run on Sunday, but never really got a chance to shine due to a bizarre incident on the green flag lap.
Nick took the start from 18th overall in GT4, and fourth in the Pro-Am Class order, but was unexpectedly torpedoed by a Multimatic Ford Mustang at the Melbourne Hairpin before the rolling start.
As Nick warmed his tyres and went to turn into the hairpin, the Mustang – a guest entry for the weekend – got too hot into the braking zone, locked its brakes and steamed into the side of the innocent Mercedes in what can only politely be described as an ‘amateur’ move.
Nick managed to get the hobbled Mercedes back to the garage, where the team’s crew set about repairing a broken steering arm and damage to the rear hub. The team worked wonders to get the car patched up and Nick did get the chance to rejoin, but was 21 laps down by that point.
Regardless, Nick defied the damage to put in a solid drive with impressive lap times, before handing over to Scott to bring the car home for the final half, however the lingering damage prevented either driver from showing what they were truly capable of and limited the pair to fifth in the GT4 Pro-Am order.
Nick Jones said: “What a disappointing weekend. I don’t even know where to start with it. We shouldn’t have been qualifying that low down anyway, as that just puts you in a difficult situation – and that was all down to a little spark plug! I have no idea what the Mustang driver was thinking at the start. I think he thought we were already racing! I was just doing my own thing and then got a huge whack when I turned into the hairpin. The guys did a great job getting the car fixed to go out again, but it still wasn’t really right and the balance was all over the place. It’s been a difficult weekend to cap a difficult season. But we’ll regroup over the winter and I’m sure 2019 will hold some exciting things for us.”
Scott Malvern added: “What do you even say after a weekend like that? First the engine issues that held us back, then we can’t even do a green flag lap without somebody ramming into us. It was pretty terrible from start to finish. I’m glad we at least got the car back out, but we had multiple issues. The hit damaged the steering arm and put the tracking out, and there was another issue we were carrying, too, which we need to investigate. It’s just the frustration at not being able to show what we can do that’s the worst. But we’ll put this behind us and work out a plan for next year. There’s more to come from Nick and I.”
Nick and Scott round out the season in a very respectable fourth in the GT4 Pro-Am division and are currently assessing their options for 2019. Watch this space.