Matt Parry got his sportscar racing career off to a strong start, with a stand-out debut in the #22 Motul Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 at the opening round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup.

The 23-year old overcame a drive-thru’ penalty at the Monza curtain-raiser to bring home his Motul Team RJN Motorsport-run entry in a creditable 13th place overall, having qualified the #22 car an impressive sixth fastest earlier in the day.

Despite being limited to just a single flying lap in Saturday’s opening practice session, Parry made the most of his previous Monza experience – gleaned from his time in both Formula Renault and the GP3 Series – to post a time of 1m 48.9secs and confirm that the red-and-white GT-R NISMO would be a contender at the front of the field, before spending the second session finding his own personal limits in the car ahead of Sunday morning’s qualifying session.

“My first GT race weekend was always going to be different to anything I had done before, not only because of the obvious differences to driving a single-seater, but because of the entire nature of endurance racing,” the Welshman explained, “However, I got off to a good start with a fast time in first practice, and the entire team was happy with the initial balance of the car, underlining the importance of the private test we did before heading out to Italy. I spent the second session understanding how far I could push the car and that gave me confidence going into qualifying”

That confidence was borne out as Parry posted a qualifying lap of 1m 47.701s to put the #22 an impressive sixth on the grid, just a couple of tenths off the pole position time as a single second covered the top 32 cars in the closely-matched field.

“We made further improvements to the car ahead of the qualifying session and they really paid off,” Parry revealed, “The fastest drivers from the other teams were all on track in Q3, and running with new tyres meant that the pressure was on to deliver. I managed to find a nice bit of space on track so traffic wasn’t an issue, but I made a small mistake at the Ascari chicane, which might have cost us a top three start. However, once again, we proved that the GT-R NISMO is a car capable of mixing it with the best of the Ferraris, Mercedes and Lamborghinis we’re racing against.”

Parry was slated to take the third and final stint in the three-hour race once RJN team-mates Struan Moore and Matthew Simmons had completed their runs, and thus avoided the drama that struck as the field was released for the first time. Moore, who took the wheel for the start of the race, did well to keep the #22 clear of the chaos that enveloped the grid – and accounted for ten other cars – on the run to the first corner, and rose as high as third on the road before handing over to Simmons at the end of his shift. The Australian then completed a solid stint before Parry got to turn his first GT racing laps with just over an hour of the race remaining.

Although his appearance was briefly delayed by a baulky wheel nut, the Welshman was quickly up to speed, picking up places after stopping out of synch with the rest of the field had dropped the #22 to 26th in the order. With his progress through the field accelerated as other teams made their final driver changes, Parry was soon chasing a return to the top ten, with a drive including a lap of 1m 49.550secs that proved to be the sixth quickest of anyone in the race. His run was interrupted, however, by a skirmish over twelfth place with sometime IndyCar driver Tristan Vautier that resulted in the Nissan receiving a drive-thru’penalty.

“I ran a little wide after out-braking the #88 Mercedes and that led to a poor exit from the corner,” Parry explained, “He was able to begin drawing alongside, but I only felt that I was defending my position. Unfortunately, the stewards saw it differently...”

Although he rose as high as tenth while his team appealed the decision, Parry was ultimately forced to take a slow tour through the pit-lane, undoing a lot of his earlier hard work before rejoining in 16th spot. Undaunted, however, he again began picking off cars ahead of him, ultimately returning to 13th overall by the chequered flag.

“Monza is one of the best tracks for the Nissan and I’m glad I was able to show both its pace and mine,” Parry concluded, “It felt good to be able to pick off the cars ahead of me at the start of my stint, and the car felt really good for the entire time I was on track. The penalty was just one of those things, and I’ll learn from it, but it’s disappointing to think that, without the drive-thru’, we could have finished well inside the top ten… That would have been a fantastic debut for the #22 car, but I think we can look forward to the next race with a lot of confidence.”

Parry more than held his own in a 50-car field that included former F1 drivers, world sportscar and GT regulars and a host of young talent he was already familiar with from his own rise up the single-seater ladder, leading television commentator – and five-time grand prix winner – John Watson to variously describe elements of his weekend as ‘outstanding’ and ‘stunning’, comparing his effort to that of a ‘seasoned professional’, which all bodes well for the Briton’s home race next month.

Round two of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, which enjoys extensive live and highlights coverage on the BT Sport and Motors TV channels in the UK, takes place at Silverstone over the weekend of 13-14 May.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.