Motorsport can be harsh when luck isn’t with you, and currently Lady Luck certainly isn’t smiling on Solseal-backed duo Nick Jones and Scott Malvern who, for the second British GT Championship round in succession, were denied outright victory by a late failure at Snetterton.
Having come within five minutes of taking their first outright British GT4 victory on the road last time out at Oulton Park only to be robbed by braking issues, misfortune struck even later at Snetterton, with a heartbreaking puncture on the penultimate lap.
Initially, things looked rosy ahead of the two races in Norfolk. The Team Parker Racing-run Mercedes-AMG GT4 was given a new engine map, allowing it more power in exchange for a bit more weight. It sat well with the big Merc, and both Nick and Scott were competitive from the start.
Qualifying allowed both drivers the chance to show exactly how strong they are right now. Nick put in a superb lap to go 13th fastest overall – less than a second from outright pole – meaning the car would start race one fourth in the GT4 Pro-Am class.
Scott took the wheel for the Pro qualifying session and put the field in the shade. Scorching to outright GT4 pole for race two and setting a new qualifying lap record for the circuit while doing so. Sunday promised good things. But didn’t deliver them.
Despite starting smack-bang in the middle of the pack, Nick and Scott came within a few minutes of securing a class podium in the first outing, only to be denied by a late penalty.
Nick took the race start and largely avoided the chaos ahead as multiple GT3 cars came to grief on the opening lap. Amid the shuffling however, Nick picked up some frontal damage in the pack, fracturing the Mercedes’ front splitter. He fell back to fifth in class but recovered to hold off class rivals Kelvin Fletcher (Aston Martin) and Paul Vice (Jaguar). Nick kept last year’s title rival Fletcher behind him until the Aston snuck past just before the pit window.
When Nick dived into the pits to hand over to Scott, they timed it perfectly, staying out for an extra lap an entering a quiet pit lane. The one thing that wasn’t timed perfectly however was the stop itself, with Scott rejoining just ahead of the mandatory pit stop time. While Scott headed back into the race still ahead of the rival Aston Martin, now in the hands of Martin Plowman, bad news was to come.
Unaware of the impending penalty, Scott put in a brilliant stint to defy the damaged frontal aero to haul the Mercedes into the top five overall and occupy third place in class. However, the call arrived shortly after that Scott would have to serve a one-second stop-go penalty for spending too little time in the pits. Combined with the time it takes to drive through the pitlane at the required limit, the censure dropped Scott back to fifth in class and 12th overall at the flag.
If race one was a missed opportunity, race two was nothing but salt in the wounds as Nick and Scott dominated the entire hour-long outing, only for a rear Pirelli tyre to fail at the end of the penultimate lap.
Scott got a brilliant start when the lights went out and pulled away from the chasing pack by almost a second per lap, smashing the class lap record on his way to a comfortable 13-second lead.
Having handed across to Nick, the Mercedes rejoined with the same advantage, which Nick set about extending. After a string of very strong laps, many of which matched or bettered those of the semi-professional drivers, Nick stretched the advantage out to a brilliant 30 seconds, and the win looked assured, despite Nick radioing back to the team about a slight gearbox issue.
Then, when negotiating the faster GT3 traffic, one of the BMW M6 GT3s squeezed Nick wide and off the track at Murray’s corner. Nick rejoined, but something wasn’t right. Entering the final sector on the second-last lap, the rear-right tyre on the Mercedes let go. Nick was forced to crawl back to the pits, and eventually took the chequered flag down in 17th, and sixth in class. It was a bitter blow, and easily one of the most undeserved results in the recent history of the British GT4 category.
The results mean Nick and Scott leave the second round of the season fifth in the GT4 Pro-Am standings, 24 points down on the class leaders – a situation that would have looked a lot different had it not been for the two failures from the first four races.
Scott said: “I just don’t know what to say. We had it in the bag, but… what do we have to do to win a race?! It’s crazy. Ultimately, it’s just hard luck. We think the tyre got a cut when Nick was squeezed off the circuit in traffic. It’s just the worst luck as Nick drove brilliantly and I even got the lap record in my stint. I don’t know what else we need to do..?
“As race one goes, we could have had a lot more, but it was my error on the pitstop. I just misjudged the stop it in a moment of complacency. But these things happen. The front damage meant the tyres were trashed anyway and the brakes were overheating as the damage blocked the cooling vents. It’s just been one of those weekends.”
Nick said: “I’m absolutely gutted. To lose one win is bad, but to lose two in two weekends just rubs it in. It’s clear that luck just isn’t with us at the moment. But that’s motorsport – the highs are really high, but the lows are really low, and this one’s about as low as it gets.
“But on the plus side, we really led the way this weekend, both Scott and I. Race one didn’t go fully to plan but race two absolutely did, if only that tyre had gone the distance. We’ll regroup, move on from this and go again at Silverstone.”