Nissan GT Academy driver Sean Walkinshaw and Blancpain Sprint Cup team-mate Ricardo Sánchez encountered an expectedly tough outing at Nurburgring Short Circuit over the weekend, 2nd/3rd July – the duo finishing fourth and fifth in the Silver Cup during the event’s two one-hour races.
With the start-stop nature of the shorter layout at the German venue not at all suited to their powerful No.22 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, the NISMO Athletes faced a tall order throughout round three of the Sprint Cup season.
Fresh from the most recent round of the sister Blancpain Endurance Cup at Paul Ricard HTTT in France last weekend, where Sean partnered Matt Simmons and Romain Sarazin, the Oxfordshire racer headed straight to Germany to team back up with Sánchez for the shorter format series.
Qualifying, as expected, was a major challenge and Sean went into Saturday’s Qualification Race fifth in the Silver Cup and in 33rd position overall on the grid. Making a clean start, he was thankfully able to avoid being side-swiped by a car recovering from an incident at Turn One and managed to pick his way through into third in class on lap one, 26th place in the outright classification.
Maintaining third in the Silver Cup, Sean traded overall positions with Stephane Lemeret and Maximilian Buhk but held 26th place as the pit window opened with 25 minutes gone. Remaining on track to the half-hour mark, he handed over the car to Sánchez from 16th overall and third in class.
Joining the race fourth in the Silver Cup, the Mexican retained that position throughout the second half of the contest and took the chequered flag in 26th place overall, before being promoted into 25th spot, to secure a position on the 13th row of the grid for the Main Race.
Sánchez took the opening stint of Sunday afternoon’s contest and made a good start, threading his way through into the outright top 20 and third in the Silver Cup on the opening lap. Edging ahead of Nicolaj Moller Madsen’s Audi for second in class into lap two, the challenge was short-lived when edged back to fourth in Silver Cup and 22nd overall soon after.
Down to fifth in class on lap 10, Sánchez pitted to hand the car over to Sean as soon as the pit-stop window opened at the 25-minute mark – entering the pits from 27th place overall. Joining the action with around 33 minutes to go in 29th place and fifth in the Silver Cup, Sean hoped to make progress.
Unfortunately, a costly second pit-stop had to be served as a result of an infringement during the opening stint. Dropping the No.22 Nissan a lap down on the leaders, Sean eventually ended the race at the conclusion of the allotted hour in fifth place in the Silver Cup, 29th position overall.
“We always knew this was going to be one of the toughest tracks for the Nissan, the layout just doesn’t suit our car – we’re all about medium to high-speed corners at longer tracks, like Spa which we’ve got coming up next in the Endurance Cup”, commented Sean.
“It would’ve been nice to try and finish in the top three in the Silver Cup, we had a chance in race one but it didn’t quite work out. Now, it’s all about preparation for the 24 Hours at Spa, we’ve got testing there this week so it’s a very busy period for all the guys in the Nissan GT Academy team.”
Sean’s attention now reverts to the Blancpain Endurance Cup with officially timed testing for the Total 24 Hours of Spa taking place at the Belgian track tomorrow, Tuesday, 5th July. The big race itself will take place on Saturday, 30th July, and Sunday, 31st July.
Blancpain Sprint Cup ‘Silver Cup’ Driver Standings (after Rd3):
5th Sean Walkinshaw/Ricardo Sánchez, 43pts