It was a definite case of ‘what might have been’ for Matt Parry and the GT Sport Motul Team RJN Nissan in round two of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup at a sunny Silverstone, despite a stellar fightback gaining the #23 car no fewer than 32 places in the course of Sunday’s three-hour race.

After new car teething troubles negated a strong start to the opening round at Monza last month, the team was keen to build on the positive aspects of the Italian weekend as it returned to home soil for race two of the Blancpain campaign, and were delighted to find that great strides had been made with the driveability of Nissan’s latest GT-R NISMO GT3 based on the data collected at the Autodromo Nazionale. With a solid base to work from, Parry and team-mates Alex Buncombe and Lucas Ordonez were able to quickly find a consistent handling balance for the Silverstone layout and, having saved tyres during free practice, were optimistic of a strong weekend performance.

That confidence was further increased when Ordonez produced a competitive time on new tyres in Saturday evening’s Pre-Qualifying session – a run near replicated by both Parry and Buncombe in their turns behind the wheel – and the trio again proved closely matched when the 51-car field took to the track to set the grid on Sunday morning. All three drivers lapped within a tenth of each other – underlining the strength of the new-for-2018 line-up – but the competitive nature of the Blancpain series meant that the #23 still wound up 18th overall. Unfortunately, the collective effort was subsequently undone when the stewards decreed that Ordonez had been released from the garage before the end of a red flag period in Q2 and, when the penalty removed the Spaniard’s one and only flying lap, the Nissan was relegated to the far end of the starting line-up.

“Qualifying was a bit messy with a couple of red flags interrupting things, but all three RJN drivers put in good, quick times when we were on track,” confirmed Parry, who did not venture back out when his own run was halted by someone else’s incident in Q1, “There was definitely room for improvement as none of us put in a perfect lap – I probably lost a couple of tenths with a small mistake on my best run - but 18th on the grid would have been somewhere we could chase points from. Unfortunately, the rules decided otherwise… It was a relatively minor misdemeanour but, with Lucas only able to set one flying lap due to traffic, it carried extra weight by pushing up our average lap time significantly.”

The post-qualifying penalty meant that Buncombe would start the #23 from 48th on the grid, but a blistering opening stint meant that he handed over to Parry with the car in sight of the top 20 with only an hour on the clock. Parry then continued the good work, hunting down a series of opponents under some unseasonably hot Silverstone sun to pick several more positions before Ordonez took over with the Nissan up to 16th on the timesheets during the second pit-stop window. Parry’s run was not entirely without incident as the Welshman was forced into a spin during one particular battle, a moment he believed cost the car an additional place in the final reckoning, but Ordonez was able to use the obvious pace of the #23 to return to P16 by the end of the three hours.

“Despite starting where we did, we were always optimistic of a good run,” Parry insisted, “There was a lot of performance in the car from the start of the weekend, and Alex really underlined that in the opening stint. I’m a little frustrated with the mistake I made trying to pass one of the Lamborghinis at turn nine, but I don’t think it made much difference to our overall result, and Lucas was still able to bring the car home well inside the top 20. The #23 had great pace throughout my run and I enjoyed being able to chase down the cars in front of me, so we know what it is capable of in the remaining rounds, It’s up to us now to piece together the perfect weekend.”

Round three of the 2018 Blancpain GT Championship Endurance Cup takes place at Circuit Paul Ricard (FRA) over the weekend of 1-2 June, with extensive live and highlights coverage on the Eurosport and Motorsport TV channels in the UK.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.