By Full Contact News and Views
Welsh race ace Seb Morris and team-mate Rick Parfitt Jnr celebrated their first win of the 2017 British GT Championship season at Rockingham on Sunday, 30th April, after a drama-filled and, somewhat confusing, two-hour contest at the Northamptonshire venue.
Despite taking the chequered flag in second place at the end of 120 minutes of intense competition, erstwhile race leader Morris was only passed at the start of the final half hour as a result of, what officials later deemed, ‘avoidable contact’ from the No.21 Ferrari 488.
Applying a 26 second time penalty to the Ferrari entry post-race, Team Parker Racing duo Morris and Parfitt Jnr were elevated back into their rightful position as race winners of round three to secure their first silverware of the new season – also moving them into the championship top two.
“We’re obviously all delighted to have taken the win, especially after how the race ended”, said 21-year-old Marford racer Morris, “The only reason the Ferrari got past was because there was contact, so I’m pleased the officials made the right decision with the penalty. I thoroughly enjoyed it out there, we were competitive and had a very strong race. We seemed to gather more pace towards the end and the Bentley looked after the tyres well. I really got into the swing of things in my stint, had a good battle and produced some good moves. We’re very happy.”
Aside from the penalty for the rival Ferrari, round three also ended in highly confusing fashion for another reason – the No.21 entry was allowed to pass the Safety Car on track during a late-race cautionary period and ultimately took the chequererd flag almost half a minute clear.
Leading at the time after the contentious pass on Morris, the Ferrari was third on corrected times as a result of an earlier five second time penalty and officials, presumably, sought to allow the correct race order to be established. Instead, the race was re-started when the Ferrari was a half a minute up the road and it went on to take the flag in first position.
“The end to the race was really confusing, none of us knew what was happening when the Ferrari was waved by the Safety Car”, Morris explained, “It all worked out the right way in the end, though, so we’re happy with the result and looking forward to Snetterton now.”
Parfitt Jnr took the opening stint of Sunday afternoon’s race, the No.31 Bentley Continental GT3 lining up fifth on the grid. Momentarily moving into fourth off the start, he was edged back to fifth again out of Turn One and remained there through an early Safety Car period.
Racing resumed on lap six and Parfitt Jnr began to pressure the Aston Martin of Mark Farmer, the Bentley making the breakthrough on lap 11. Reeling in the top three over the next few laps as the lead trio battled fiercely, Parfitt Jnr was then powerless to prevent Farmer from getting back ahead when the Aston went for an opportunist move as the GT3 cars lapped GT4 runners on lap 17.
Two laps later, though, Farmer had a spin so Parfitt Jnr shot past into the top four again and this quickly became third on corrected times due to a five second penalty for Derek Johnston. Soon enough, the Team Parker driver got ahead of Johnston’s Aston Martin on the road too and as the race approached the 45-minute mark, the Safety Car was then deployed for a second time.
At the re-start soon after, Parfitt Jnr maintained third and he stayed there to the end of the first hour when he handed the car over to Morris. The BRDC Superstar and MSA Team UK driver emerged from the pits in second and set about closing down the race leading Aston Martin of Jack Mitchell.
Producing great pace, and showing terrific commitment through traffic, Morris brilliantly took the lead at Brook Chicane with around 35 minutes of the race to go but two laps later his Bentley was barged into by the No.21 Ferrari and he was unceremoniously dumped back to second place.
Although taking the chequered flag in second at the end of hour two, disappointed and frustrated with the outcome, the mood soon turned to one of cheer when the Team Parker Racing duo were correctly elevated into first place.
There is now a four week break in the British GT Championship calendar with rounds four and five, which revert to the 60-minute duration format, scheduled to take place over the weekend 27th/28th May at Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk.
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