Round two of the Blancpain Endurance Cup season at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, 15th May, delivered the first Pro-Am class points of the 2016 campaign for Sean Walkinshaw – the NISMO Athlete, partnered by Matt Simmons and Romain Sarazin, battling hard to a top seven finish.
Very happy to chalk-up his first points with Nissan GT Academy Team RJN, a result which places the Chipping Norton driver and his team-mates inside the top 10 of the Pro-Am standings, Sean is now confident of building on this weekend’s performance when the Endurance Cup resumes in late June.
Progressing well from 14th in class at the start, the No.22 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 carved its way through the Pro-Am order during the action-packed three-hour contest and only just missed out on a top six result with just a few minutes to go.
Coming as a marked improvement on the opening round result at Monza last month, where the trio took 12th position, the Silverstone performance shows the squad is certainly on the right track as it strives to edge closer to the Pro-Am podium.
“I’m happy enough, it was a pretty decent race”, said Sean, “We went from 14th to seventh, which wasn’t bad at all, and it’s just a shame I couldn’t keep hold of sixth at the end over the last couple of laps – the tyres had just gone.
“I had to defend but tried to make sure I wasn’t losing time in among the backmarkers, I’m a bit annoyed as I could have held on if it wasn’t for a little mistake on the second to last lap. It’s great to have our first points though, we’re on the board now and hopefully Paul Ricard next month will be good. It’s going to be a six-hour race so, even better, as it means twice as long in the car!”
Qualifying placed the Nissan 14th in Pro-Am and 35th overall on the 52 car grid for Sean’s ‘home’ race and Simmons took the opening hour. By the end of his stint, the Australian had moved up into seventh in class and the outright top 20 with a stellar drive.
Sarazin took over driving duties for hour two, keeping the Nissan firmly in the hunt for a strong points result, with Sean getting behind the wheel for the third and final hour. After the last round of pit-stops, the Oxfordshire racer was 10th in Pro-Am and in 32nd position overall but had moved up into eighth in class prior to the appearance of the Safety Car with 40 minutes to run.
Racing resumed with 20 minutes to go and during the closing stages Sean continued to rise up the order, despite tyre wear becoming a big factor, and climbed into the Pro-Am top six. Battling hard to keep the No.24 Bentley behind during the last few minutes, the slightest of errors on badly worn rubber proved costly but seventh in Pro-Am and 28th overall was still a strong finish.
Round three of the Blancpain Endurance Cup will take place at Paul Ricard HTTT, near Marseille in southern France, over the weekend 24th/25th June.
Blancpain Endurance Cup Pro-Am Driver Standings (after Rd2):
10th Sean Walkinshaw/Matt Simmons/Romain Sarazin, 6pts
Blancpain Endurance Cup Pro-Am Team Standings (after Rd2):
10th Nissan GT Academy Team RJN, 6pts