For the second year running, Matt Parry claimed his first points of the Blancpain GT Series season on French soil, this time sharing a hard-earned tenth place in the Paul Ricard 1000km with R-Motorsport team-mates Matthieu Vaxiviere and Maxime Martin.

After two encouraging, but unrewarded, rounds at Monza and Silverstone, the trio moved onto the south of France for the longest race of the year so far confident that the continual progress made with the set-up of their Aston Martin Vantage GT3 would pay dividends, and their faith was rewarded with a strong opening day performance. Without the benefit of a pre-race test day, but with knowledge gleaned from the series’ pre-season test at the same circuit, the #62 machine showed potential through both practice and pre-qualifying, setting the team up for a strong run in Saturday’s qualifying session.

Unlike the previous two rounds, where Lady Luck had turned her back on the #62, each of the three drivers got a clear run in the timed session, with their average lap time good enough to put the grey-and-blue Aston Martin sixth overall and only a tenth of a second from pole position

“This was definitely our best qualifying session of the season so far,” Parry confirmed, “We were confident going in as the build-up had been promising, and all three drivers managed to post strong times. Even though we didn’t have a pre-race test here, R-Motorsport had a strong base set-up from the pre-season session and we just worked from there. We’d already made progress with the car at Monza and Silverstone, but got the most out of both free practice and pre-qualifying to put the #62 in a good position for the rest of the weekend.

“The car progressed well throughout qualifying too, especially as the fuel load came down, and our best grid position of the year shows just how far we’ve come with the set-up, particularly in terms of one-lap pace.”

With the race scheduled to run over six hours, taking the teams from late afternoon into the dark of night, each driver would run double stints behind the wheel, and Vaxiviere gave the #62 a strong lead-off, keeping the car in the top ten throughout his two-hour shift. Parry, meanwhile, had the challenge of transitioning through the middle of the race, when the setting sun made sight-lines more difficult, and also started his stint by having to serve a drive-thru’ penalty applied for an unsafe release during Vaxiviere’s first stop. With the field still closely matched, that was enough to drop the Aston Martin outside of the top 20 and, when the Welshman made a fractional error leaving pit-lane during his run, a second punishment undid the hard work he had put into recovering positions.

“It was unfortunate to have to start my shift by serving a penalty, but it was just one of those things,” he sighed, “Matthieu’s release wasn’t particularly dangerous, but the series has hard rules for what is a very busy pit-lane, and we just ran foul of them and had to take it on the chin. At this level of GT racing, however, the slightest delay can have a big effect on track position, and I rejoined in the thick of the field.

“Although I was able to make up places as the stint went on, the low sun made finding reference points more and more difficult. Despite that, the only mistake I made was when leaving the pits after my first stop, as I went fractionally over the white line separating the exit from the race track. That, too, was largely due to the sun, which made it difficult to see the blend line, especially at the end of the exit lane, which was longer this year due to changes made for F1’s return to Paul Ricard. Again, it was a simple mistake, but undid some of the hard work that had gone into moving back up the order.”

Despite the setback, Parry manoeuvred the #62 back to within touching distance of the top ten by the time he handed over to Martin for the final two hours of the race, and the veteran completed the team’s recovery by making up further places on the road before the chequered flag, eventually taking the R-Motorsport machine to tenth place and its first scoring finish of the season.

“It’s nice to finally be on the scoreboard,” Parry admitted, “It’s so hard to get points in a series as competitive as this, and you really need as clean a race as possible. We made life a little harder for ourselves this time, but still finished inside the top ten, which is a testament not just to the pace of the drivers, but also the gains we’ve made with the car over the season so far. We’re definitely better in terms of both single-lap and long-run pace, and that continuing improvement means that we can head to Spa-Francorchamps with confidence.”

Round four of the 2019 Blancpain GT Championship Endurance Cup – the blue riband Spa 24 Hours - takes place in Belgium over the weekend of 25-28 July.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.