Nick Jones and Scott Malvern claimed the greatest victory of their British GT careers at Silverstone, defying the odds to guide their Solseal-backed Mercedes-AMG to a jubilant outright GT4 victory during the showpiece Silverstone 500 race last Sunday.
As reigning GT4 Pro-Am Class champions, Nick and Scott had been keen to kick-on from last year’s success and see how high they could climb the overall competitive GT4 order, and aim to take the fight to the higher-rated silver or semi-pro driver pairings.
The start of the season suggested they were not shy at doing so either. They should have won outright at Oulton Park, but were denied by a braking issue, and then lost the chance at a second outright win last time out at Snetterton when a tyre exploded on the penultimate lap. The Solseal duo were staring to think luck was against them, but at Silverstone – the biggest race of the season – the tables turned triumphantly.
The three-hour Silverstone 500 event always brings a fresh challenge, with the longer race format allowing better use of race strategy, and the prestige of the event also bringing additional entries out of the woodwork. The largest overall British GT entry since 2013 lined up, with 26 GT4 cars among the 39-car grid. Among the new GT4 entries was another Mercedes-AMG GT4, run by the ERC Sport team and featuring AMG factory driver Maximilian Buhk. The addition of a like-for-like car with a paid works driver onboard would give Nick, Scott and the Team Parker Racing crew a credible benchmark for their performance.
The weekend started well, with Nick and Scott showing strong pace as the four-litre Mercedes thrived on Silverstone’s fast sweeps. That would translate well for qualifying, too. Nick’s best lap put him fourth in the Pro-Am order, and 18th overall against the higher-rated drivers, less than two-seconds off outright pole. Pro driver Scott then scorched to the outright fastest time in his session, putting the field into the shade by the best part of 0.6seconds – a whopping 1.5seconds faster than Buhk.
The combined times meant Nick and Scott started third overall in GT4, and from class pole. The race was on.
Nick took the start and put in a brilliantly controlled stint, limiting the time loss to the higher-rated drivers and completing his first 40-minute stint holding third place in Pro-Am and running within the top-10 overall.
Scott then belted up and rejoined for what would be an epic 50-minute stint. With the leading Pro-Am Aston Martin getting a penalty for shaving time from its first pit stop, and the overall leading Aston getting repeated censures for the same thing, Scott made mincemeat of the pack, touring up the order to assume the Pro-Am Class lead and slot in just behind the outright GT4 leader when he handed back to Nick for the third stint.
Rejoining the race right in the thick of the action, Nick didn’t back off, and remarkably kept up the pace of the leaders, despite this stage of the race being the hardest to negotiate with repeated traffic management needed to dodge the faster GT3 cars coming through. Nick ran within the top six overall and his pace was such that he emerged in the Pro-Am lead as the pit stops cycled through with just under an hour left.
With the higher-rated ‘Silver’ driver pairings all having to serve an additional 14 seconds on their final pit stop, the quickest Pro-Am crews were in a strong position entering the final stage of the race. Scott was reinstalled for the run to the flag and, thanks to Nick’s brilliant stint and efficient pit work by the Team Parker Racing crew, he rejoined as the de facto race leader, but with Buhk’s Pro-Am Mercedes just a few seconds behind.
The pressure was on, but Scott didn’t show any signs of feeling it. He outclassed Buhk lap after lap, pulling tenths of a second with every tour to eventually cross the line with an insurmountable 15-second lead.
The number 66 Team Parker Mercedes-AMG had finally done it. Achieving Nick and Scott’s first outright GT4 victory on the road, in the biggest event of the season, and even finishing a stunning 12th overall as some of the faster GT3 cars hit trouble ahead.
The result signalled jubilant scenes on the podium as Nick and Scott collected the trophies for both the outright GT4 race winners, and the class honours. It moves the pair to fourth in the overall GT4 championship, and third in the Pro-Am division. The title defence is back on.
Nick said: “It’s just amazing. That was the best race we’ve ever had in British GT. I did the best stints I’ve ever driven. My goal was to just stay in amongst it and hand the car across to Scott in the strongest position possible. At the end of the day, my pace wasn’t half bad at all! You have to take your luck when it’s there. We’ve had so much bad luck so far this year, but to win the big one… it’s just incredible.
“We’re now right back in the championship too, it’s a huge result in so many respects and there’s so much work that goes into getting this car on track, from Scott and I and the team. They called this race perfectly and I’m just so happy.”
Scott added: “That was unbelievable…. That pretty much says it all! That result goes such a long way to making up for the heartbreak we’ve had across the first two rounds. Ultimately this should be our third race win of the season, but it wasn’t to be before, and then to win the biggest race of the season outright… it’s just unbelievable.
“I had no concerns about the car or the competition in the last stint. It was about cruising the car home and maintaining the gap I had and looking after the tyres just in case there was a safety car or anything to hurt our lead. Nick did brilliantly, he was so consistent and cool under pressure. He held his own against the silver drivers, and this is what we’ve been working towards for the last six years – to get these outright wins, and man it feels good! I’m just so pleased for Nick and the team – nobody deserved it more.”