Racing drivers Nick Jones and Scott Malvern bounced back from a tricky start to the opening British GT Championship weekend at Brands Hatch to guide their SD Sealants-backed Porsche 911 to a superb top-six finish.
Hopes were high ahead of the first round of the championship at the Kent venue’s world-famous Grand Prix Circuit. For their second season in the championship’s top GT3 class Jones and Malvern upgraded to a new Porsche 911 GT3 R, run by the same Team Parker Racing crew that helped the pair to a maiden GT3 victory during the last campaign.
The addition of the new car will undoubtedly give Jones and Malvern a solid platform to fight for the outright championship, but the switch to German machinery from the Bentley they raced last year also presented a learning curve at Brands.
During both practice and qualifying the Porsche proved a little unsettled, with both drivers struggling to make use of the kerbing that provides the fastest lines around the circuit, particularly on the high-speed GP section through the woods. Regardless, Jones and Malvern finished the first two practice sessions sixth and seventh fastest respectively, and then the attentions turned to qualifying.
Knowing they still had some work to do to settle the car, both Jones and Malvern played it safe, not wanting to push the car beyond its limit. Jones set the eighth fastest time of the Pro-Am runners in his half of qualifying, while Malvern backed that up with the 10th fastest time overall – just a second shy of pole – yet in the tightly packed field that meant the car would start 11th on combined times.
Overnight, the Team Parker crew made some key adjustments to the Porsche’s suspension, and the difference was clear right from the start on Sunday, with Jones going considerably faster during the 15-minute morning warm-up.
That promised good things for the race, and both drivers had their sights firmly set on moving forwards, which is exactly what happened.
Jones took the start of the two-hour race and immediately picked up a few places as some others around him hit early trouble – such as the Enduro Motorsport McLaren, which collided with the barriers at Hawthorns even before the action got underway, meaning the race began behind the safety car while it was recovered.
When the race did get going, Jones worked his way up to ninth and got into a fantastic fight with the Simon Green Motorsport Lamborghini driven by Lucky Khera. As the pair traded places, Jones was elevated yet further up the order when James Cottingham’s Ram Racing Mercedes and Adam Balon’s Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini both found their way into the gravel at Paddock Hill Bend while fighting for sixth.
That lifted Jones to seventh, just as the pit window opened at mid-distance and he dived in to hand the Porsche over to Pro driver Malvern. Some slick pit work from Team Parker got Malvern installed and back out in sixth place.
Despite having to resist some pressure from former Le Mans and IndyCar racer Martin Plowman’s Bentley Continental, Malvern made the most of the Porsche’s now-predictable handling and pulled clear to cement the result.
Their sixth place landed 12 championship points, and predictably leaves them sixth in the drivers’ championship ahead of the next round at Silverstone.
Nick Jones said: “Overall it was a tricky weekend as we didn’t have the best of Saturdays, but Sunday was so much better. The changes the boys at the team put in place made a massive difference and I had the confidence to push the car more and really get into the fight. From my part I just wanted to keep things nice and consistent and stay out of trouble, and I managed to do that and have some great fun at the same time. You can’t help but smile when driving a car like this around a circuit like Brands Hatch GP! Scott did his usual great job and sixth is a great result to get our season underway with. I felt mint when I got out of the car and can’t wait to get back in it at Silverstone now.”
Scott Malvern added: “I’m really satisfied with sixth from our first race with the Porsche. It’s clear we got off to a difficult start, so we had to gamble on some big setup changes overnight, but fortunately they worked out nicely and on Sunday we really had a strong car. Nick did a great job and will only grow in confidence from getting his first race stint of the year under his belt. He went out, rolled his sleeves up and got stuck into the fight, which was great to see. When I took the car over most of the work was already done so it was just about pulling clear of the Bentley behind and ticking the laps off. Without those ahead hitting trouble we couldn’t have improved too much more so we got the maximum from what we had, which is always a positive. It’s always a learning experience with a new car, and I’m sure we’ll be even better equipped at Silverstone.”
The next round of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship is the showpiece three-hour Silverstone 500 event around the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit on June 26/27.