SWIFT BUT ILL-STARRED


Matt Parry again showed that his pace and passing ability have transferred well to the endurance racing arena, but the Welshman – and the entire Motul Team RJN Nissan operation – were out of luck in round two of the 2017 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup at Silverstone.

Parry made a strong start to his first sportscar event on home soil, putting the #22 Motul Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 entry into sixth and seventh places respectively in the weekend’s opening practice sessions, lapping just a couple of tenths off the outright pace in the ‘pre-qualifying’ run on Saturday evening, before encountering his first stroke of misfortune in Sunday morning’s grid-setting session.

Building on the good work of team-mates Matt Simmons and Struan Moore, the 23-year old took to the track on fresh rubber looking to repeat the stunning sixth overall spot he took in his maiden GT qualifying session at Monza in April, but quickly discovered that, with the majority of the 54-car field also in search of a fast lap, finding a suitable gap in the traffic would be difficult.

“I backed off in the hope that I could make myself some space for a flying lap, but that just caused the tyres to cool off more than I expected,” Parry explained, “After that, I was fighting with understeer as I attempted to put in a fast lap and, once the optimum window for the tyres had passed, that was that. I tried to go for a second flier, but caught a BMW coming out of the pits just as I was rounding Copse, so perhaps my traffic management could have been better…. It’s just one of those things and another lesson I can tuck away for future reference.”

Despite his misgivings, the former single-seater ace still managed a respectable 14th fastest time with his best run, lapping just seven-tenths off the pole position time, and putting the #22 car well inside the top half of the mammoth field, ahead of some of the series’ more established entries, as a single second covered the first 19 cars.

Starting on the seventh row of such a competitive grid is prone to misfortune but, unlike at Monza, the entire field made it through the opening corner unscathed. Moore again made a good start, picking up places to run inside the top ten in the early laps, but team’s weekend began to unravel with the first of several safety car interruptions seeing the #22 shuffled back down the order after losing tyre temperature at the reduced speed. That handed the #23 sister car track position and priority on pit-stops, even before another safety car period came at an inopportune moment for a driver change.

Once Moore had handed over to Australian Simmons, the white-and-red GT-R NISMO GT3 was mired back in 39th place, leaving the rest of the afternoon dedicated to a recovery drive. Simmons duly managed to reclaim seven spots before handing over to Parry, but a slight delay at their handover, when access to the pit stall was hampered by a neighbouring car, only served to underline that it was not to be Nissan’s day.

Parry, to his credit, was not about to go quietly, however, and immediately set about trying to salvage what he could from the race. Within a handful of laps of taking the wheel, he had already shown his affinity with the Silverstone layout, clocking the #22’s fastest race lap, a 2min 01.510secs mark that stood as the third fastest of any car on track through the entire three-hour event. With only the top ten runners scoring points, however, breaking his championship duck was always going to be difficult, but Parry progressed from 32nd on the road when he took over to 24th at the chequered flag, bringing the car back onto the lead lap in the process, and felt he could have done little more in the circumstances.

“Silverstone is not only a track I’m familiar with, but also one that I really enjoy and always seem to go well at,” he noted, “That, and the fact that the #22 car was working really well when I took over, meant that it was an enjoyable stint, even if we were playing catch-up.

“I was able to set a good pace early on, but endurance racing isn’t just about fast laps and I’m pleased that my average lap times were not only quick but consistent across the stint too. Who knows, if we’d been at the front, not only could we have been challenging for points, but maybe even a top five finish… There are obviously things that we need to work on, but I’m looking forward to the next round at Paul Ricard and again showing what the GT-R NISMO GT3 can do.”


Round three 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, as well as on http://www.nismo.tv/, takes place at Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France over the weekend of 23-24 June.

 

Article created by Craig Llewellyn.