Not only did the European heatwave throw extreme temperatures at the Le Mans Cup field in Southern France, but the eighth-place finish achieved by Jones and Malvern was secured in the face of yet more difficulties with the championship’s Balance of Performance rules.
Just like at the previous event at Le Mans, the BoP settings for the sole new 992-gen Porsche 911 GT3 R in the field once again robbed the car of straight-line performance, and with Circuit Paul Ricard boasting one of the longest straights in Europe in the form of the 1km Mistral, it meant the team faced an uphill battle from the very start.
Malvern managed to put the Team Parker Racing-run car seventh and fifth during the two free practice sessions on Friday, but each time he was losing more than a second per lap down the Mistral, even against the older-generation 911 GT3 R.
Jones took the wheel for qualifying and admittedly didn’t hook up the sort of lap he’s capable of. That, plus a lap deleted for track limits, meant the team would start the 110-minute race on Saturday from 12th in class.
With the longer Le Mans Cup races depending more on strategy, there was always the potential to move forward, and Jones kept things clean at the start as drama kicked off around him, helping him move the car into the top 10 during the early stages. With cockpit temperatures approaching 60 degrees, the race proved to be hugely physically challenging, and the team took advantage of a Full Course Yellow caution period right before the pit window opened to switch drivers.
Another perfectly executed pit stop got Malvern back into the action ahead of a handful of his class rivals, with the #18 Porsche leapfrogging to seventh. However, with the pro drivers all now installed, Malvern was powerless to fight against his challengers down the Mistral, given the Porsche’s lack of straight-line grunt.
Malvern would eventually take the flag eighth after a drive-through penalty demoted the #86 Porsche. The result at least marked a good improvement from the car’s starting position and brought with it some championship points, but there was little masking the disappointment of what could have been had the car been able to compete on an even footing.
The results mean that Jones and Malvern run fifth in the GT3 Drivers’ Championship, with three rounds remaining this season.
“This was a really challenging weekend for us with the temperature, the car and the competition. We came through it as a team and scored some more points, but there’s no secret that we’re disappointed not to have had more. This track is very technical and I struggled to make the most of things in qualifying, and then my focus was to just keep things tidy in the race and bank on us having great strategy to bring us into play. The team did a great job, as always, but it was so hot inside the car it was tough to keep focus. Scott also did all he could, but we can only fight with what we have currently.”
“It’s been a very disappointing weekend really. We had hoped the BoP issues would just be confined to Le Mans and that we could have a more potent race car for Ricard, but that didn’t happen. The conditions also made this race so tough. It’s draining racing a big, physical GT3 car in such heat and I think we both struggled with that at times. Nick did well to bring us up a few places from the start and the team once again executed a perfect pit stop and strategy, which should have brought us higher than it did, but I just couldn’t fight with the other cars being so fast on the straight. Still, it’s more points for us in the championship, but something needs to change to get us back to the front.”
The next round of the Michelin Le Mans Cup takes place at Aragon in Spain on August 24/25.