Walkinshaw ‘Very Happy’ to Post Hard-Earned Total 24 Hours of SPA Finish with Nissan GT Academy

Published: 03 August 2016
Atrocious conditions in the last 30 minutes made the run to the flag a real nail-biting affair.
Atrocious conditions in the last 30 minutes made the run to the flag a real nail-biting affair.

Pictured: Atrocious conditions in the last 30 minutes made the run to the flag a real nail-biting affair.

Second year Blancpain GT Series driver Sean Walkinshaw says he’s very happy to have chalked-up his first Total 24 Hours of Spa race finish at the renowned Belgian track on Sunday, 31st July, following an immensely challenging – and at times frustrating – fourth round of the Blancpain Endurance Cup.

Marking only his second ever twice-round-the-clock challenge, the 22-year-old produced a series of terrific performances at the wheel of the No.22 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 and, along with team-mates Matt Simmons, Romain Sarazin and Ricardo Sánchez, finished 13th in Pro-Am.

British racer Sean, who was born not a million miles from Spa in Brussels, headed into the biggest race of the season hoping to make a deserved return to the Pro-Am points. Unfortunately for the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN squad, though, an electrical problem during the night-time hours had a major impact on their final placing.

The quartet’s challenge was made all the harder after qualifying, a session which gave them no favours when several red flag stoppages interrupted ‘flying’ laps on each occasion. Ultimately, they had to start the big race from 58th overall on the huge grid and last of the Pro-Am cars in 25th spot.

Sean piloted the Nissan for the opening stint on Saturday, 30th July, and made superb progress to work his way through to 22nd place in Pro-Am and 42nd overall, a gain of 16 positions in total, by the end of the first hour.

As his team-mates took their respective turns behind the wheel of the No.22 car, the Nissan climbed further and further up the order and with four and a half hours elapsed Sarazin held 13th place in Pro-Am, 37th overall, as hopes of a points challenge became ever more realistic.

During Sean’s next stint into the late evening he consolidated a top 15 class position but a short while later in the seventh hour, the car had to be wheeled into the pit garage as a result of an issue with the fuel pump electrics.

Intermittent rain at various parts of the track added its own variable to proceedings during the night time hours but the NISMO Athletes continued to perform well as the Nissan got quicker and quicker and, in the end, finished 13th in Pro-Am, 37th overall, after a dramatic final half hour of heavy rain.

In total, the race was impacted by no less than 15 ‘Full Course Yellow’ periods, three full Safety Car periods and, of course, the dramatic last 30 minutes where atrocious conditions made the run to the flag a real nail-biting affair.

“It was a massive disappointment for everyone to qualify so far down, we had a red flag on every single run so we know we should have started the race higher than where we did”, said Sean, “Over the first two hours we were up into about 37th overall and we held firm then.

“Unfortunately, we had the electrical issue during the night when Ricardo [Sánchez] stopped on track but he managed to get going again to the pits. In the end, we lost 15 laps sorting the problem but the whole team did a fantastic job to turn things around as quickly as they did.”

He added: “As every stint went on the car got quicker and quicker and the conditions did come to us a bit. We definitely learned a lot, everyone did a fantastic job and the team were faultless. I’m very happy to have got to the finish and now we’re all looking to the next rounds of the Endurance Cup and Sprint Cup, we really want to end the season on a high.”

Round five of the 2016 Blancpain Endurance Cup, the last race of the longer format campaign, will take place at Germany’s Nurburgring over the weekend 17th/18th September. Before then, Sean and Mexican team-mate Sánchez will contest the fourth round of the sister Blancpain Sprint Cup at the Hungaroring near Budapest on 27th/28th August.