Having shown top-three potential in Friday’s free practice sessions, the SD Sealants-backed pair recorded the eighth quickest time in Saturday morning’s brief qualifying session with Jones at the wheel; the Team Parker Racing Porsche 992 GT3 R machine still hamstrung by the series’ Balance of Performance rules, with the car continuing to run heavier than its rivals despite a 20kg weight break being applied ahead of the event.
Hoping for rain before the race, the famous Belgian weather eluded the duo during the near two-hour contest on Saturday afternoon, but drama elsewhere and a late charge ensured they still banked a well-earned podium finish.
Jones took the start, but within seconds it became clear that the event would not in any way follow usual conventions. A multi-car collision at La Source between several leading LMP3 cars scattered the field, with Jones doing well to steer through the melee and gaining a position in the process.
But a stopped prototype machine on lap two, and debris elsewhere, brought out the first of four lengthy safety car periods, with Jones moving up to fourth when the race resumed some 20 minutes later after rivals ahead made pit stops.
There was only around a lap and a half of green flag running before the safety car was brought back out following a heavy collision between two LMP3 cars on the approach to Fagnes. With another car pitting, Jones found himself as high as third, before he too stopped for the mandatory driver change, handing over to Malvern at the end of lap 12.
Action resumed again two laps later, with half of the race still remaining and the Porsche 992 in ninth position. But once more, green flag running was to be brief, as further drama in the LMP3 division, this time at the exit of the Bus Stop chicane at the end of the restart lap, brought out the safety car for the third time while the wrecked cars were removed from the circuit.
Over 15 minutes later, racing was back underway, and on this occasion, there was time for two racing laps before proceedings were neutralised again following a hefty shunt for Josh Skelton’s Nielsen Racing LMP3 car exiting the Les Combes complex, with Malvern holding eighth position.
Just 19 minutes were left on the clock when the field was unleashed, and Malvern wasted none of it by resuming battle and getting stuck into a multi-car fight.
He moved up to seventh when a Ferrari ahead stopped with a puncture at Eau Rouge, but the resulting full course yellow added to the frustration as his charge was temporarily halted once more.
The green flags finally flew for the final nine minutes, remarkably the longest period of uninterrupted racing in the entire contest, and Scott was right on the attack, passing fellow Team Parker-runner Charles Bateman on the restart for sixth, and then moved up to fifth at the expense of former F1 racer Jan Magnussen next time around.
With enough time for only two more laps, the train of cars contesting the podium spots were next in his sights, and when Kei Cozzolino’s Ferrari was pushed wide exiting turn nine, Malvern was up to fourth.
Remaining with the leaders on the final lap, there was contact ahead of him at the final corner, with Sennan Fielding’s Steller Motorsport Audi pushed wide by the Lamborghini of Patrick Kujala, and Malvern crossed the line right behind the squabble, and less than 1.5 seconds away from the winner.
However, that wasn’t the end of the story, as a string of penalties then further jumbled the order, but had the added bonus of elevating Jones and Malvern to third, sealing their spot on the GT3 podium for the second time this season, following their second place at the season opener in Barcelona.
The result means the pair run fifth in the drivers’ championship, with just the season finale at the Algarve International Circuit still to come.
Nick Jones said: “What a great weekend it turned out to be, even if the race was pretty crazy. My stint was regularly interrupted by safety cars so it became about keeping calm and not joining in the chaos going on around me. I made some really good forward progress during my stint and that set Scott up to do what he does. To bag a second podium of the year feels great, even if we were made to wait for it. The whole Team Parker crew has worked so hard and we’ve had to endure a lot of disappointing rounds recently with BoP, so results like this are great payback. Now we can go into the season finale looking for a strong end to the year.”
Scott Malvern added: “It felt brilliant to be back on the podium, and I feel it’s a result that we really deserved. Nick did a great job of keeping things tidy in the challenging opening stint, and then when I got into the car I just had to take every chance I could. I was pushing like mad. I think we maximised our own race with a great pit stop and two clean stints. The car definitely felt a bit better this weekend with some weight out and it was nice to be competitive again and fighting at the sharp end. I reckon with one more lap I could’ve passed at least one more car, but there just wasn’t time. Still, third is a great reward for us and the team, who have worked really hard to help us get back into the fight.”
The Michelin Le Mans Cup season finale takes place at the Autodromo do Algarve in Portimão, Portugal on October 21/22.