Appearing in the Le Mans Cup for a one-off appearance, Team Parker Racing’s Jones and Malvern looked right at home on the continent as they delivered an assured performance on a day of high drama at Portimão.
Though the pair were a guest entry and therefore not competing for championship points, the SD teams-backed Porsche still put in an impressive drive in a race that was afflicted by a two-hour stoppage after a huge crash for Forestier’s Jérome de Sadeleer.
With Jones and Malvern taking a break from their British GT campaign, the pair showed promising pace from the offset, with the #65 Porsche 911 GT3 R setting the second-fastest GT3 time in the opening practice session, before improving to lead the class times during FP2. Jones took the wheel for qualifying, and managed to bag a strong fifth-place starting spot for the 110-minute race on Sunday.
However, an electrical issue on the grid meant that Jones had to begin the race from the pitlane, unfortunately having to wait four laps to rejoin as the team worked to clear the technical problem.
The pitlane start was, in hindsight, not the worst thing, considering it meant the team missed the chaos that was about to unfold elsewhere.
After a frenetic start the safety car was called when the No6 ANS Motorsport Ligier of Jonathan Brossard ended up beached in the gravel at Turn 11 with less than five minutes run.
That limited the damage and allowed Jones to rejoin, however as soon as he did the race was halted following a heavy accident for LMP3 driver de Sadeleer at the safety car restart.
Barrier damage from the incident required a two-hour pause, with the race eventually being greatly reduced to a 20-minute sprint.
When racing finally did get back underway, Jones and Malvern aimed to put on a charge. Rejoining the race in seventh, Jones pitted for Malvern when the window opened, and with the Pro driver installed the Porsche showed well against the fastest in the class. However, Malvern’s progress was interrupted again when the yellow flags came out to retrieve the stopped Racing Spirit of Léman car of James Skelton, which had stopped at Turn 7.
Then there was further drama when Gunnar Jeannette’s Schnitzelam Racing Mercedes was nerfed off by Valentin Hasse-Clot’s Bullit Racing Aston Martin as they battled for the GT3 class lead. The latter managed to get going, but was then involved in drama again a lap later when he out-braked himself and rammed straight into the side of Birch Guslav’s Honda NSX, which had been fighting for third.
What resulted was a full course yellow to retrieve both stricken GT3 cars, and the collision allowing the Team Parker car to move two places up the order.
That final caution period left just two minutes on the race clock, with the Team Parker Racing Porsche taking the flag in fifth place, and crucially without damage.
Nick Jones said: “Despite everything that was thrown at us on Sunday, I still really enjoyed our Le Mans Cup debut. We got a load of track time and it’s a series that’s very geared toward the amateur driver. It was really refreshing to go and do something new and experience a different style of competition with the great Team Parker lads. The car suited the Michelin tyres well and we felt properly quick across much of the weekend. It was a real shame we had the electrical issue at the start. I left the collecting area and the car died on me on the pit limiter and the dash froze. We got it going with a reset but then I couldn’t get any drive at the start. These sorts of freak things just happen occasionally, and it certainly wasn’t down to any lack of prep! But it got sorted and we got back into the race. We gave it our best shot with the time we had left, and fifth is a respectable result. We’ll now take the winter to reset and have a break, and then decide on our next steps for 2023.”
Scott Malvern said: “It was an interesting way to make our Le Mans Cup debut, and it certainly wasn’t the smoothest, but we came out of it with a lot of positives. Firstly, the car felt very competitive in the Le Mans Cup. The pace was there for all to see during both practice sessions and Nick’s times were close to the outright pace. Obviously, we suffered at the start with an electrical issue, but we got it cured and when we did get running the car felt great, even if the race was heavily disrupted. Still, we got a taste for European competition and a decent result at the end of it, so there could well be more to come.”
With the season now finished, Nick Jones and Scott Malvern will take some time to reset, before announcing their plans for the 2023 season in due course.