Strong Top Eight Finish for Walkinshaw and Always Evolving Motorsport in Endurance Series Finale

Published: 21 September 2015
Sean raced fantastically, with some superb overtaking, to keep the team in the hunt for the podium.
Sean raced fantastically, with some superb overtaking, to keep the team in the hunt for the podium.

Pictured: Sean raced fantastically, with some superb overtaking, to keep the team in the hunt for the podium.

Sean Walkinshaw produced the best and most competitive drive of his maiden season in GT racing during the Blancpain Endurance Series finale at Germany’s Nurburgring on Sunday, 20th September, as the Always Evolving Motorsport team delivered a performance worthy of podium success.

Beginning the three-hour GT 500 from an excellent third on the grid, the No.173 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 actually led proceedings for the first hour in the hands of the 21-year-old’s team-mate Craig Dolby but hopes of a win were badly impacted by two Safety Car interventions.

Taking the middle stint of the contest, Chipping Norton-based Sean raced fantastically, with some superb overtaking, to keep the team in the hunt for the podium at least and although delayed in the final pit-stop due to a very busy pitlane, Martin Plowman concluded the run in eighth position.

“We’re all massively disappointed with the end result”, said Sean, “Craig did a super job to put the car P3 on the grid and the lead he built up was fantastic. The first Safety Car, which was unnecessary, ruined our chance of the win and the second Safety Car definitely cost us a podium.”

Hopes of a strong weekend at the Nurburgring prior to the event were more than justified as the AEM team, in partnership with JRM, delivered an incredibly competitive car and the drivers made the most of the performance available to them.

Preparing well for final qualifying on Sunday morning, the team made its intent fully clear in the second of the three sessions with the fastest time of all – a lap of 1m54.990 seconds – before going on to end the decisive third session with an improved time of 1m54.752 seconds for Dolby, securing third on the grid for the big race and just 0.2 seconds shy of pole position.

In-keeping with the Always Evolving Motorsport name, the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 sported another fresh livery this weekend, turquoise and black, and Dolby steered the striking car into the lead as soon as the race began with a sensational launch at the rolling start.

Opening up an incredible lead of over 10 seconds, on lap 15 the appearance of the Safety Car undid all of the Briton’s hard work but at the resumption he again managed to pull away from the chasing pack and built a cushion of roughly five seconds before the first driver change at the one hour mark.

Sean rejoined the contest in fifth place, after a slight delay in the pits, and within a couple of laps he set about challenging for fourth position, which he successful claimed on lap 37 with a strong and determined pass. Just two seconds shy of the podium battle, the Oxfordshire driver closed in with sensational pace and within five laps he was all over the back of Robin Frijns’ Audi.

Racing well to remain on the case of Frijns while also coming under pressure from one of the Bentleys, Sean managed to take third place on lap 44 with a clear-cut pass at Turn One on the brakes and then started to close-down the second placed Lamborghini.

On lap 49, with Sean tucked-up behind the Italian machine as they started to negotiate traffic, the Lamborghini tangled with a backmarker at the second corner. Forced to take swift avoiding action, which he managed to do neatly, Sean nonetheless lost time in the process and was then frustratingly passed by a car under the second Safety Car. He ultimately pitted at the end of lap 54 from fourth.

In an extremely busy pitlane, the team slipped outside the top 10 during the second driver change so in the final hour, with Plowman behind the wheel, the Briton set about breaking back into the coveted points positions. With a strong drive he worked his way into the top eight to deliver a richly deserved points finish for AEM – the squad having had the pace throughout to challenge for victory.

“I’m sure we could have kept the lead without the Safety Cars”, reflected Sean, “Craig did a great job and I was happy with the pace in my stint. I got stuck behind the Lambo but then I was overtaken under yellows which dropped us to P4 which was pretty frustrating. Then, the last stop was really disappointing as the pits were so busy.

“It’s good to end the Endurance Series back in the points, but disappointing not to have taken the podium we know we were capable of. The car was fantastic though all weekend, the Always Evolving guys did a mega job with it.”

Now the Blancpain Endurance Series season has concluded, Sean’s attention turns exclusively to the sister Sprint Series which has two race meetings remaining. The first of those, round six, will take place over the weekend 3rd/4th October at Misano in Italy, where he will be partnered by Dolby.

Final 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series Driver Standings:
15th Sean Walkinshaw/Craig Dolby/Martin Plowman, 18pts