Bitter Disappointment for Walkinshaw and MRS GT-Racing at Spa

27 July 2015

Pictured Sean and MRS GT-Racing will be back in action on 5th/6th September, at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve near Portimao, Portugal.

Atrocious weather during the early stages of round four of the Blancpain Endurance Series, the Total 24 Hours of Spa, played a major role in a bitterly disappointing retirement for Sean Walkinshaw and the MRS GT-Racing team on Saturday, 25th July – less than three hours into the crown jewel event.

Having risen through the order remarkably well during the first couple of hours at the rain-hit Belgian track, team-mate Craig Dolby gaining 11 positions overall in less than 60 minutes of racing before surging into the outright top seven after the opening round of pit-stops, a sudden downpour early in Sean’s first stint led to an unpredictable amount of standing water on the old pit straight.

With the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 aquaplaning off the circuit in a straight line, the Chipping Norton driver was a complete passenger and the resulting hard impact with the barriers led to substantial damage. While able to coax the car back the pits, Sean and the MRS crew soon realised it would have to be retired from the race due to a cracked chassis.

The Oxfordshire driver was, thankfully, uninjured in the heavy impact, reporting only a sore neck, but being forced to withdraw from his first ever twice-round-the-clock race so early in the contest was a more painful prospect for the 21-year-old.

Reflecting on the incident during the live Motors TV broadcast, he explained: “I was just coming out of the first corner when the wet conditions were starting to get really bad, I was in a straight line but aquaplaned suddenly and hit the wall. I got back to the pits but when the guys looked at the car further they saw the chassis was cracked, the fuel tank was out of place and the seat was broken.

“It’s really hard for the race to end that way, it was going really well for us up to that point and half an hour before the accident we were in P7 overall. The conditions changed very dramatically [in my stint], into the Bus Stop chicane a huge downpour came and I couldn’t see anything and then I hit some standing water on the old pit straight and that was it.”

Resplendent in its brand new red livery this weekend, with Union Flag adorning the roof, the No.73 Nissan had to begin the race mid-grid in 34th position overall after an unfortunate penalty during the qualifying run on Thursday, 23rd July.

Typically for the Ardennes track, heavy rain before the start of the race led to very tricky conditions but Dolby did a great job in the first stint to gain nine places overall in just half a dozen laps. As the opening hour neared its conclusion, the MRS GT-Racing car was in 24th place overall and 14th in the Pro Cup.

After his first pit-stop, Dolby remained behind the wheel of the Nissan and through a lengthy Safety Car period – required to enable barrier repairs on track – the Briton was able to gain a huge number of positions against alternative pit strategies, running in seventh place overall with 90 minutes of racing complete and with wet conditions still making racing very difficult.

After pitting to hand the car over to Sean for his first stint of the race a couple of hours in, the Oxfordshire racer was determined to continue the fantastic progress but those hopes were cruelly dashed when the car aquaplaned off the circuit.

On recovering to the pits, the MRS GT-Racing mechanics set feverishly about repairing the visible bodywork damage but after closer inspection it became clear the chassis had been cracked in the impact with no way of repairing the structure.

“So much preparation went into this event, so it’s really disappointing and I’m absolutely gutted for the whole team and obviously Craig [Dolby] and Martin [Plowman]”, he added “We just need to come back next year and try again, but our focus now will be on the next round of the Sprint Series.”

Round five, the grand finale of the Blancpain Endurance Series, will take place over the weekend 19th/20th September at the Nurburgring in Germany. In the meantime, Sean and MRS GT-Racing will be back in action in the sister Blancpain Sprint Series on 5th/6th September, at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve near Portimao, Portugal.