In the final round in the 2017 British GT Championship WRDA member, Seb Morris & his team-mate Rick Parfitt Jnr came to Donington with a 10.5 points lead and were looking to qualify their Team Parker Racing run Bentley Continental GT3 as far up the grid as they could on a track that does not suit their car, as much as some other tracks! With the grid positions decided by combining the qualifying times of each of the drivers, Rick Parfitt was able to hurl the mighty Bentley around fast enough to take 2nd place in the AM (Amateur) session.
Rick was part of an Aston Martin sandwich, as he was only 0.0118 secs! behind the pole winner Mark Framer, and ahead of Dereck Johnston and well ahead of their main rivals Alan Minshaw in the Barwell Racing run Lamborghini Hurrican, who was 5th. However Seb did not fair so well in the Pro session and was only 7th fastest! In the event the final outcome is that Rick & Seb combined times was only fast enough for 4th place on the grid, alongside their main rival for the championship, Minshaw and Keen (3rd)! The Aston Martins of Farmer & Barnes and Moore & Nicoll-Jones were 1st and 2nd ! The pace of the Aston Martins was of interest to Seb & Rick, for if Minshaw and Keen did not win, then Seb & Rick would have only to shadow them, to win the championship!
The other Team Parker Racing Bentley driven by Ian Loggie & Callum MacLeod would start in 7th place. The team manager of the Loggie & MacLeod car is Welsh legend Jools Westwood, and he gave realistic assessment of likely outcome of the early part of the race. ‘We know that Alan Minshaw struggles in the longer races, and Ian goes well on tracks he likes, so hopefully we can put some pressure on Minshaw as the races goes on, and help Seb & Rick that way!’
Apart from the important business of the British GT championship, Rick Parfitt Jnr is the front runner in Sunoco 240 Challenge, which Seb Morris won last year. The prize is a fully funded seat in GT4 race car in the 4 hour race supporting the Daytona 24hr race!
Just before the race started Seb received a boost with some celebrity endorsements.
When the race started it was win or bust for Minshaw & Keen, and so it proved, as Minshaw got up to 2nd place at the start, but then spun his chances away, eventually restarting following a trip though the gravel, in 10th place! Meanwhile Rick Parfitt Jnr was in a solid championship winning 4th place, but as Minshaw recovered from his indiscretion, Rick moved into 3rd place! However pulses began to race with the news that Rick & one of the other cars were to be investigated for a ‘Yellow Flag’ infringement! Within 5 minutes, relief replaced concern, with the news that ‘No further action was to be taken’ At the end of his stint Rick was exhausted and collapsed
to his knees! A little later, the sight of a camera & microphone was enough to help revive him! ‘It was the most difficult stint I have ever done. It was so hot in the car! We knew we didn’t need to overtake the Astons so I was trying to drive within myself and I had to fight through pin & needles in my legs! He also confirmed that he had used the ‘Yellow Flag incident to his advantage. ‘I was behind Liam Griffin in the other Barwell Lamborghini, when we went into the Yellow Flag zone, but I saw the Green Flag was coming up, so I closed up and jumped him as we passed the Green Flag!’
After some sage words from his long-time mentor Andy Meyrick, (who is soon to be an MSA Level 4 Certified Coach) and after serving out the extra 20 seconds ‘win penalty’ Seb re-joined the race in 7th place but was soon up to speed and was up to 4th place, which, with only about 35 minutes to go, was exactly where he needed to win the title, as Phil Keen was only 3rd , with 2 Aston Martins looking the favourites to win! Indeed it was strange not to see Seb ‘Going for it’ , as I sure he could have closed on Phil Keen, and maybe overtaken him, if he had needed to! But a cool head was needed, and so it happened that Seb brought the Bentley home, safe in 4th place to win the title! Seb and Rick attended a reception at the Team Parker Hospitality Tent to a rapturous cheers and applause! Late in the day came the shock news that Seb & Rick had been elevated to 3rd place in the race, as Minshaw and Keen had not only been disqualified, but had also been excluded from the race, as John Minshaw had passed a car under Yellow Flags! Minshaw also had 4 points added to his licence! This elevated Seb & Rick to 200 points, to win the championship by 33 points! It will also do Ricks chances in the Sunoco 240 Challenge, no harm at all! Also Rick has now become the only driver to win both the British GT3 title i.e now in 2017 and British GT4 title in 2013!
Seb confirmed ‘I’m happy that Rick and I get on so well! We must do something together in 2018 if we can! At the moment it feels unbelievable and very emotional. I’ve got to say a huge thank you to Team Parker and M Sport who have done an incredible job alongside Bentley this year, we’ve really put all the links in the chain together. Rick has done an amazing job, he hasn’t made a mistake all year, and I haven’t done a bad job myself! We all deserve this, everyone has worked so hard. It was an interesting race, that’s for sure, but in the end we did what we needed to do. I really want to say thank you to my family and all of my sponsors, Ast Transport Branding, Eddie Stobart, Saxon Air and, in particular, Sue Harris of Legat Owen who was my first ever sponsor and has supported me ever since. This title is for all of them.” Rick had also given his sponsors a name check earlier! Seb is a BRDC ‘Rising Star’ whose Star has well and truly risen! Report by Marion & Robert Allender