Frustration for Rapid Walkinshaw and MRS GT-Racing in France

23 June 2015

Pictured Frustration for Rapid Walkinshaw and MRS GT-Racing in France

Blancpain Endurance Series racer Sean Walkinshaw encountered his – and the MRS GT Racing squad’s – most frustrating race of the year at Paul Ricard on Saturday, 20th June, when a couple of unfortunate issues prevented the front-running team from extending its points-scoring run.

Going into the six-hour event equal fifth in the driver standings, the Chipping Norton 21-year-old and team-mates Craig Dolby and Martin Plowman delivered outstanding pace from the beginning of the weekend and were well on course for a strong points finish during the first third of the contest.

With just over two hours of the race complete, though, the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 lost a huge amount of time in the pits due to a dislodged turbo pipe. Despite the very costly set-back, the squad still managed to reach the chequered flag but in an unrepresentative 21st place in the Pro Cup and 42nd overall – far from what the trio’s pace deserved or merited.

“It’s a shame the way things turned out, I’m pretty confident we could have easily been P5 in that race with the pace we had”, reflected Sean, “Although Q3 didn’t go to plan, and we started much further back than we should, everything else went well and the car was fantastic from the start.

“Before the pit-stop window opened for the first time we were up into 11th overall and the BMW just ahead of us at that point ended up finishing in third – that shows what was possible. After we lost time in the pits the car was pretty much perfect again and really fast. We know we’ve got good pace and we’re looking strong for Spa, so everyone’s really looking forward to that.”

The Paul Ricard weekend started superbly for MRS GT-Racing in practice, the No.73 car finishing in the top five in its first track session – within just 0.3 seconds of the outright pace – and going on to end pre-qualifying in sixth overall. Qualifying, though, wasn’t what everyone had hoped for.

Dolby took the opening stint of Saturday evening’s six-hour race and, starting 34th overall on the 60 car grid, he produced a superb first racing lap to gain 10 places prior to the appearance of the Safety Car after a multi-car tangle.

When racing resumed Dolby set about slicing his way through the order and prior to handing over the Nissan to Sean during the first round of pit-stops, 65 minutes into the race, he had climbed into 11th position overall and ninth in the Pro Cup.

Roughly 20 minutes after Sean joined the race for the first time, the Safety Car made its second appearance and the Oxfordshire driver held 12th in the Pro Cup and 16th place overall. When the action got back underway, with one hour and 45 minutes complete, Sean was 10th in class and 13th overall and as the action reached the two hour mark he was on the fringe of the outright top 10.

Producing an excellent performance, the MRS GT-Racing driver enjoyed a fantastic battle with the similar Nissan of Ricardo Sanchez and on lap 53 he managed to get ahead of the Mexican to take 11th place overall as well as holding 10th in the Pro Cup. Notably, for much of his stint, Sean was one of the fastest drivers on track.

With two hours and 10 minutes of racing complete on lap 60, Sean pitted to hand over the car to Plowman but within just a lap of being back in the race the GT-R NISMO GT3 developed a sudden loss of power. Battling on, and re-setting the electrical system, Plowman pressed on before pitting from outside the overall top 20 on lap 74.

After the MRS GT-Racing mechanics replaced the damaged turbo pipe, Sean ventured back out at the halfway point of the race but down in 44th place overall and 21st position in the Pro Cup after losing several laps. Frustratingly, he then had to make an unscheduled stop to allow the team to check the car in the garage and after rejoining the action he completed his run with two hours to go.

Plowman got back behind the wheel at that point and, with the car running perfectly, lapped with pace a match for the top three as the light faded to show what could have been possible. Dolby then took his second stint with an hour to go as the circuit became fully enveloped in darkness.

MRS GT-Racing will now head direct to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for an officially timed test this Wednesday, 24th June, in preparation for round four of the Blancpain Endurance Series, the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which will take place at the end of July. Just two weeks from now, Sean will be back in race action in the sister Blancpain Sprint Series on Saturday, 4th July, at Moscow Raceway in Russia.

Provisional 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series Driver Standings (after Rd3):
10th Sean Walkinshaw/Craig Dolby/Martin Plowman, 16pts

Provisional 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series Team Standings (after Rd3):
7th MRS GT-Racing, 20pts