In a race that featured significant safety car interruption, the pair steered clear of the chaos and benefited from a well-timed pit stop to climb from 10th in class to second at the end of the 110-minute season opener.
With Jones at the wheel of the squad’s Porsche 911 GT3 R 992 in qualifying ahead of the team’s first European encounter, he set a string of progressively quicker laps to wind up just a couple of seconds away from class pole position in the 15-minute session.
Jones remained in the seat for the race start and amongst a colossal 42-car grid, there was drama almost immediately, as a multi-car pile-up at the first corner wiped out several LMP3 contenders ahead, strewing cars across the road at the first chicane.
Amid the melee, Jones picked his way through and in doing so gained two positions to move up to eighth, but the deployment of the safety car was inevitable. With half-a-dozen cars stranded and dropped fluids at the first complex, it took 20 minutes for the race to resume.
At the restart, Jones set about chasing Lars Engelbreckt Pedersen in the #88 GMB Motorsport Honda NSX, but any thoughts of him pulling off a pass were halted when yet more LMP3 cars came to grief, with a car stranded at La Caixa bringing out the safety car for a second time.
With the first 30 minutes run almost entirely under caution, racing resumed once more with one hour and 17 minutes remaining. This time there was chance for a handful of racing laps, with Jones keeping the Honda in check while pulling out a big gap to the #70 Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini of Gerhard Watzinger behind.
But the third safety car appearance came just moments later as the #14 Inter Europol Competition LMP3 car stranded itself on the kerb exiting turn eight, needing recovery.
With the race resuming once more at the end of lap 19 and one hour three minutes still on the clock, Jones pitted to hand over to Malvern, in what turned out to be a perfect bit of judgment, as the fourth safety car was just moments away.
As Malvern returned to the race, the #97 Cool Racing LMP3 car beached itself in the gravel, calling for another caution period. While his rivals all had to tour round for an extra lap under neutralised conditions before making their pit stops, when the race restarted on lap 24 Malvern was elevated to third place, quickly despatched the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Kei Cozzolino to move up to second and then set his sights on the leading #10 Racing Spirit of Le Mans Aston Martin Vantage of Valentin Hasse-Clot. Malvern had plenty of pace too, as he recorded a 1m43.162s lap, the fastest in class at the time.
Alas, just three laps later the Safety Car was back out after the #70 Lamborghini, which had been handed over to Brendon Leitch, was nudged off the road in the first complex.
After five more laps of neutralised running, the race resumed again, with Malvern initially keeping the Aston well within his sights and quickly building a gap to the Cozzolino Ferrari behind.
Finally, after so much interruption, there was green flag running to the end in the final half hour, with class leader Hasse-Clot only fractionally quicker, and building a small lead to Malvern. But the British driver was comfortable in second, establishing a margin of around five seconds to Cozzolino behind.
With no further interruptions to the racing, Malvern claimed a superb second in the GT3 class for the duo on their debuts with the new-generation Porsche 911 GT3 R 992, despite a worrying moment in the closing seconds as a wild lunge from the #87 Cool Racing LMP3 while lapping the Porsche nearly ended in disaster.
Malvern held firm though, skilfully steering away from the drama, and securing a dream result for the pairing, 8.2s away from Hasse-Clot, and 4.5s clear of Cozzolino.
Nick Jones said: “What a way to start the season! We perhaps didn’t expect to come away with a podium finish from the first round as this year we have a brand-new car to learn in a new championship, but the team did an excellent job. For my part, the race was about keeping things clean as others lost their heads around me. I felt really comfortable in the car and was pleased with the pace we had in the race. It was tense in the garage watching Scott during that final run to the flag, but I had zero doubts in him. He’s a class act. I’m delighted with the result, not just for Scott and I but for the entire team as the lads worked so hard to get to grips with the car. I can’t wait for the next round at Le Mans.”
Scott Malvern said: “Second place was an amazing result, and pretty unexpected, to be honest. With a new car to the team as well as to myself and Nick, and we only had minimal testing with it before the event. We didn’t really know what to expect, so to finish our first race with it on the podium was amazing! The turning point of the race was the pit stop from the team. We got a clear run through the pits, our stop was right on the money, and we rejoined into clean space. From then the balance of the car was great. We struggled a bit with straight-line speed due to the balance of performance, but there were moments when I thought ‘we could win this’, and if there hadn’t been LMP3 cars between myself and the leading Aston I could have had a go at passing for the lead. But second is still brilliant. Nick drove really well and kept things tidy and this result will be a real boost. It’s also nice to get a podium on my first appearance in a true international GT championship!”
The duo next head to the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France, for the next round, where they will tackle the Road to Le Mans contest ahead of the world-famous Le Mans 24 Hours on June 9/10.