Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 racer Sean Walkinshaw enjoyed a strong Blancpain Endurance Series debut at ultra-fast Monza in Italy over the weekend, 11th/12th April, after taking a top eight finish in the headline Pro Cup category with team-mates Craig Dolby and Martin Plowman – although post-race they were promoted into seventh after the race winner was excluded.
After a frustrating outing in the sister Blancpain Sprint Series a week ago, Chipping Norton-based Sean was determined to get the Endurance campaign off to a smoother start and the MRS GT-Racing trio certainly displayed impressive – and consistent – pace from the outset.
Difficulties with traffic in qualifying, however, prevented the team from securing a target top five starting slot for the three-hour race but in race conditions the team-mates each produced pace and performance worthy of a Pro Cup podium result.
Beginning round one from a much lower than expected 24th position on the overall grid, Plowman took the opening stint and managed to gain a fistful of places prior to handing the Nissan GT-R over to Sean with an hour of racing complete.
On rejoining the race, the 21-year-old immediately started to make up ground and with just over half of the race remaining he had broken into the overall top 20. Continuing to impress, Sean had broken into the top 15 and moved to the cusp of the Pro Cup top 10 with 75 minutes left on the clock and after a brief Safety Car period he then handed the car over to Dolby from fourth place.
After the order settled back down again following the final round of pit-stops, Dolby set about hunting down a top 10 finish in the Pro Cup and the Briton did just that with eighth position, 12th place on the combined classification. Following the aforementioned exclusion for the winning entry after the race, the MRS GT-Racing team-mates were classified seventh and 11th overall.
“It’s been a little bit frustrating this weekend as I think we had the pace to be on the podium, but I’m still happy to get a good finish”, said Sean, “We didn’t get the best out of qualifying as Craig [Dolby] had traffic, we’re pretty sure we could have been top five without that.
“Our race pace was good, though, and all three of us were quick enough to hold that level of performance so it’s a bit of a shame what the end result was. We all did a great job but it really could have been so much more this weekend, the potential was so good.”
Round two of the Blancpain Endurance Series will be particularly special for Sean and his British team-mates as it takes place at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit on 23rd/24th May. Before then, though, Sean and Dolby will return to action in the Sprint Series on 9th/10th May, also a British round at Brands Hatch in Kent.
“The car was great to drive this weekend, the set-up and pace were fantastic and we were able to run very consistent lap times which is what this style of racing is all about”, he added, “It’s going to be great racing in the UK for the next rounds in both championships, I’m looking forward to that.”