Nick Jones and Scott Malvern rounded off their Intelligent Money British GT Championship campaign with a fine sixth place during last weekend’s Donington Decider, once again ramming home the potential of the latest-generation Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Together with the strong points finish, the Team Parker Racing crew came agonisingly close to scoring their first fastest lap award of the year, with Malvern’s late-race best falling just 0.004sec shy of the accolade.
The weekend started on a high note for the team, with Jones and Malvern setting the third-fastest outright time of the opening free practice session, before going eighth fastest in the second as the team ran through setup combinations ahead of qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
With each driver’s best lap from qualifying counting to set the grid on Sunday, Jones took the wheel of the Porsche for the first segment. Many drivers struggled to get a rhythm during the session, which was briefly halted due to the championship-leading Barwell Lamborghini sliding into the gravel at the Fogarty Esses, and the guesting Tolman Motorsport Bentley crawling around on track after suffering a technical issue. Despite the disruption, Jones managed to set the eighth-fastest time, just 1.2sec off pole around the 2.5-mile circuit. Malvern then backed that up by going sixth fastest in his half, missing top spot by just 0.4sec. The combined times gave Jones and Malvern seventh on the grid for Sunday’s season finale.
With no championship pressure, both drivers could simply go out and enjoy the final race of the campaign and, when the rain arrived on Sunday morning, it only cranked up the stress on their rivals. While the downpour stopped before the race start, the field still lined up on a soaked circuit, but with dry weather expected later it made setup choices difficult.
The Team Parker crew opted to set the car up for the dry weather later in the race, and fitted worn wet tyres for Jones’ first stint, which would make the car tricky initially before the pace would come to the Porsche as conditions improved.
In the worst of the conditions, Jones made a solid start and benefited when cars around him began to make mistakes. First Michael Igoe dumped the pole-sitting WPI Lamborghini into the gravel at Coppice, then Andrew Howard spun his Beechdean Aston Martin, and Kelvin Fletcher lost control of the Paddock Motorsport Bentley.
Jones avoided the incidents superbly, holding sixth place by the time he pitted for Malvern at half-distance. Once installed, and with fresh slick tyres bolted on for the rapidly trying track, Malvern lit up the timing screens, lowering the fastest lap of the race multiple times as he clawed back a 10-second deficit to Sandy Mitchell in the #1 Barwell Lamborghini in fifth. Despite catching the Lamborghini factory driver, Malvern ran out of time to find a way past before the race was ended prematurely by red flags to recover a broken-down McLaren GT4 car at Coppice corner.
Malvern had looked set to hold on to the fastest lap too, until new champion Dennis Lind snuck ahead by a tiny margin right at the end.
Regardless, Jones, Malvern and the entire Team Parker crew can be satisfied with the strong end to their maiden season with the Porsche, having made it three top-six finishes from the final three races this term. Jones and Malvern finished the season 10th in the championship points.
Nick Jones said: “It’s been a great weekend and a great season. I’m really proud of the whole team and how far we’ve come after starting from scratch with a new car for this year. The race was tough. I didn’t have a huge amount of confidence in the car in the first 20 minutes due to the setup we ran, but it got better and better after then and Scott drove a mega stint. In truth, those early minutes probably were the difference between sixth and a podium, but with so many others going off I wanted to play it safe for this one. We’ve now had three really strong races toward the end of this season, which gives us something really positive to take into the winter as we start to prepare for next season.”
Scott Malvern added: “It’s great to finish the year with a strong performance, although I was so gutted not to get that final fastest lap! We took a bit of a gamble on setup, which made things tricky for Nick at the start as the track didn’t dry as quick as we’d hoped it would, but he recovered really well, kept his head down and brought the car back in a good position. In my stint it was mostly dry and I just gave it all I had to catch the Lamborghini ahead as we knew there was a potential Pro-Am class podium on the cards if I could get past him, but these guys are no slouches and the Lamborghinis are probably the strongest cars on the grid at the moment, so sixth was the limit for us today. But we’re only scratching the surface with this car, and still learning as we go. I’m in no doubt that we have the right car to get into the mix at any race we go to, and that’s a good feeling to carry into the winter.”