One of the keys to success in endurance racing is perseverance, regardless of how bleak a situation looks. SD Sealants drivers Nick Jones and Scott Malvern emerged as deserving GT4 Pro-Am champions from last weekend’s British GT season finale, despite a second-corner incident almost derailing their title hopes.
Ahead of the two-hour final race of the season at the Leicestershire circuit, Nick and Scott held a three-point lead in the GT4 Pro-Am Championship aboard their Team Parker Racing Mercedes-AMG. Only the rival UltraTek Nissan 370Z shared by TV actor Kelvin Fletcher and professional racer Martin Plowman could deny them this year’s title.
The championship would go to one crew or the other, as things narrowed to a two-horse race after nine rounds this season.
Nick and Scott landed the first blow, by putting in a superb effort in qualifying to make sure the SD-backed Mercedes would start eighth overall and second in the Pro-Am order, while Fletcher and Plowman could only manage 15th fastest overall and seventh in Pro-Am.
The stage was set, but a two-hour season finale is rarely a straightforward task, and the race proved turbulent from the moments the lights went out for the rolling start.
The GT4 Pro-Am pole-sitting McLaren was clipped by another car heading into turn two and spun at high speed right in front of Nick, who had to take to the grass in avoidance. Despite a spin and a stalled engine, Nick managed to rejoin the race and avoid damage, even though the incident dropped the Mercedes-AMG to the back of the pack.
Suddenly the title momentum had swung away from Nick and Scott, but Nick put in a fine recovery drive to catch the tail end of the pack, and begin picking off cars one by one. As Nick made progress back up the order, the rival Nissan’s fortunes began to falter, and soon Fletcher had to bring the car into the pits with an issue concerning its oil system.
That handed the momentum back to Nick and Scott, who still had the best part of 90 minutes of racing to survive in order to seal the title.
Nick brought the Mercedes-AMG back up into the top five in class before handing across to Scott, who rejoined immediately on the attack, picking off two more cars to eventually secure yet another Pro-Am podium, and with it the 2018 British GT4 Pro-Am Championship trophy.
“What a weekend, what a season… it’s just unbelievable! I’ll be honest, I thought we were done for at the start. The McLaren came right across the bonnet of our car and I had to take avoiding action. The engine stalled and the gearbox stuck in third so restarting it was difficult, but I got it rolling again and managed to rejoin. After that I was trying to keep my head and find a rhythm, but I thought the title had gone and the year’s hard work had gone. But the guys kept me motivated on the radio and I started pushing to catch the pack up. Things changed when they told me the Nissan had a problem, suddenly the race was about preservation and trying not to do anything stupid. I stayed off the kerbs and picked my overtaking moves carefully.
“When Scott brought the car home, the feeling of being champions was immense. I feel bad for the Nissan guys, as we wanted a good race with them and we get on with them well off-track. But we’ve built this campaign from scratch, with the boys at Team Parker and the new Mercedes-AMG GT4 and to win it for them, and for Scott, felt really special and it’s something I’ll remember for a long, long time. Now I guess we start planning for next season…”
“It’s the first championship I’ve won since Formula Renault in 2012, and in truth it’s probably the most rewarding one. Every time before when I’ve been in a title-winning position I’ve always had full control. This time there were two of us in the fight, and Nick absolutely did us proud.
“It would have been so easy for us to be ruled out at the start after that off, but Nick really kept his head and did so well to avoid what would most likely have been race-ending damage. When I took over I pushed pretty hard, but always had that bit in reserve as it was then about bringing the car home, and to finish with a podium is a great way to cap things.
“I’ve worked with Nick for the last five years, and to see his progression since the first race we did together is amazing, and even this year alone he’s come so far. This is massive vindication for both of us, proving the pace of the Mercedes-AMG and the great work that Team Parker has put in. We beat probably the most competitive GT4 Pro-Am field ever, with highly-rated drivers and factory teams. And hats off to Kelvin and Martin – they’re one of the strongest pairings on the grid in my mind, yet we came out on top. We’ve had great races with them all year. What a result, and what a brilliant year’s racing!”