Sean Walkinshaw only just missed out on his target of a top 10 points finish during the final round of the Blancpain Endurance Cup at the Nurburgring in Germany on Sunday, 18th September, with the No.22 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 having to settle for 11th place in Pro-Am after three hours of racing.
Beginning the weekend with strong pace in practice, day two of the championship finale was badly impacted by extremely thick fog which delayed proceedings significantly and resulted in two of the three final qualifying sessions being cancelled.
When track action on Sunday did eventually start, still with visibility at a premium, Oxfordshire racer Sean qualified 17th fastest in Pro-Am in the shortened session which ended early after the second of two red flag stoppages. Prior to the first stoppage, Sean had set the fastest sector time and had been on course for a big improvement…showing what may have been possible from a loftier grid position.
Even so, a battling performance from the 22-year-old and fellow Nissan GT Academy Team RJN racers Matt Simmons and Romain Sarazin almost delivered a deserved top 10 finish after three hours of intense action.
“It was quite a frustrating end to the Endurance Cup for us”, commented NISMO Athlete Sean, “Practice went pretty well, we showed some good pace there and hoped for more from qualifying to be honest as I was on for a much better lap when the first reds came out. Then, when the second stoppage came I was on a good lap which would have put us in the top 15 overall.
“In the race, we did the best we could and weren’t far away in the end from the class top 10. Obviously, we would have preferred to finish the championship with a return to the points but we took another good result and now I’m focusing on the last race of the Sprint Cup in a couple of weeks in Barcelona. Hopefully we can be competitive there.”
From the opening Bronze test on Saturday, 17th September, the No.22 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 showed good pace, 11th fastest in Pro-Am, and in the subsequent Free Practice the car ended a red flag shortened session an improved fifth in class – just outside the overall top 10. Consistently strong in Pre-Qualifying too, placing 10th in Pro-Am, hopes were justifiably high for final qualifying.
Sunday morning’s session was delayed by 80 minutes as a result of the low hanging fog, meaning officials chose to cancel the first two sessions and run only session three with the Pro drivers from each team. Impacted by two red flag stoppages, the 15-minute period came to an early conclusion.
For the race Simmons took the opening stint from 17th in Pro-Am but the action fell under Safety Car conditions after just a handful of laps due to an incident. Having scorched into 11th place in class, Simmons moved into the top 10 inside the first quarter of an hour and climbed to eighth in class before moving into the top four as others served earlier pit-stops.
Sarazin took over driving duties for the second hour after Simmons pitted with 65 minutes elapsed, the Frenchman working his way back through into 14th place in Pro-Am at the halfway point of the race with the No.22 Nissan going on to end hour two in sixth place.
Soon enough, Sarazin pitted to hand the car over to Sean and he threaded back into the race with the other Pro drivers for the 60-minute run to the finish. Working his way back up the order into 11th place in the end, Sean took the chequered flag only six seconds shy of the points positions in Pro-Am.
While the Endurance Cup season has now ended, the sister Blancpain Sprint Cup still has one event remaining, over the weekend 1st/2nd October, at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.