SD Sealants-backed drivers Nick Jones and Scott Malvern once again showed exactly why they are considered as British GT Championship frontrunners after coming agonisingly close to an outright GT4 podium at Brands Hatch last weekend.
Fresh off the back of a supreme GT4 Pro-Am class win, and fourth overall, from the last round at Spa-Francorchamps, Nick and Scott so nearly went one better in Kent.
The pair steered their Team Parker Racing-run Mercedes-AMG GT4 to fourth overall, and were only denied that maiden outright GT4 podium on the final lap of the two-hour event.
The pair showed promise from the very start of the weekend, with Scott topping the free practice times before qualifying, despite the Balance of Performance settings denying the Mercedes boost in lower gears, meaning the exit of corners such as Druids hairpin and Surtees were made difficult against their rivals.
However, Nick managed to put the car fourth in class in qualifying, and 12th overall against the higher-rated drivers, before handing over to Scott. Scott then aced it, setting the fastest time of any car during his short stint, meaning the SD Sealants Mercedes would start second in the Pro-Am order and eighth overall on combined times.
The race took place under scorching sun, making handling a four-litre bi-turbo beast like the Mercedes-AMG hard work. Nick took the first stint and managed to hold on to fourth spot in class before the race was neutralised by the safety car after a big accident along the pit straight. On the restart, Nick benefited from a mistake from the class leader to snatch third shortly before handing over to Scott shortly after the pit window opened.
The safety car bunching everybody up was bad news for all of the higher-rated driver pairings, which each had to serve an additional 20 seconds in their pit stops. So, when the order shuffled through after the stops, the Pro-Am runners all emerged at the head of the field, with Scott holding third spot overall and right behind the rival UltraTek Nissan.
Scott pushed hard to pass the Nissan, driven my Martin Plowman, but couldn’t find a way past with the Japanese car enjoying better traction. Plowman’s defending also meant that the Silver-class BMW of Ben Tuck could close in to pressure Scott in the closing stages.
At the start of the last lap all three cars ran together into Paddock Hill Bend as Scott attacked Plowman in order to defend from Tuck. It was a gallant effort, but Tuck simply had too much power and towed past in the middle of the lap before also edging Plowman’s Nissan to second spot at the line.
The outright podium was so close, but the effort did net third place in the Pro-Am order and more valuable points in the battle against the Nissan for the class title.
Although Plowman and co-driver Kelvin Fletcher out-scored Nick and Scott this time, the SD Sealants crew still hold a three-point advantage heading into the season finale at Donington Park next month, and have no additional time to serve on their pit stop, while the Nissan will have five seconds extra.
“It’s a bit of a bitter-sweet weekend to be so close to the outright podium and to lose it on the last lap, but we have to look at the positives and we had a great race and were in the mix for the entirety of it and just fell short. Our rivals had to pull out every stop to try and beat us and only just edged it.
“The team were brilliant all weekend and Scott drove his socks off at the finish, but we did all we could do. The race was hard work in my stint with the heat and the safety car interruption, but the car felt great. Now we’ll head to Donington to try and finish the job.”
“I’m gutted we lost the podium on the final lap as I was pushing so hard for it, but I could see the BMW coming and they just have so much more power than us and our tyres were very worn by that point, so we just can’t defend that. But regardless, it’s another class podium and we can take a lot of positives from it. Nick drove really well in his stint and we brought the car home without a scratch and well in the points.
“My battle with Martin Plowman was actually great. It was clean as a whistle and he clearly knows what he’s doing as a driver. Hopefully we can turn the tables at Donington as we head there with no extra pit stop time, so I feel we’re in a good position.”