Chipping Norton’s Sean Walkinshaw, and MRS GT-Racing team-mates Craig Dolby and Martin Plowman, celebrated a superb top five result during round two of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Silverstone on Sunday, 24th May – ending the three-hour contest just 12 seconds shy of the podium.
Carrying a lot of positivity into the event after partnering Dolby to podium success in the Blancpain Sprint Series earlier this month, 21-year-old Sean impressed throughout and played a crucial role in the ultimate result with a terrific performance during his stint in the middle of the race.
As well as marking the squad’s best result of the Endurance Series campaign so far, the fifth place finish – from 22nd on the grid – also meant MRS GT-Racing was the highest placed of the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 entries. In addition, the team-mates have climbed into fifth position in the provisional championship standings.
“It was an awesome race for us, especially considering where we started in P22”, said Sean, “It’s not easy to overtake around Silverstone, and with so many backmarkers as well with such a big entry, so it was very tricky to work your way through. Fifth is great though, and top Nissan too is a bonus!
“I’m really happy with the result, everyone at the team did a fantastic job again and Craig and Martin both had really strong stints. I’m happy with my race pace, I just need to work on qualifying a bit more to get that single lap nailed. There are still things to work on but it’s going really well.”
Qualifying on Sunday morning, which was impacted by light rain, didn’t go to plan unfortunately and the No.73 Nissan started the race in 22nd position on the 61 car grid. Dolby took the first stint and made tremendous progress throughout the opening hour, ending the first 60 minutes of track action in the overall top 12 and 11th position in the Pro Cup class.
As several teams began to make their initial pit-stops, Dolby remained in the race for an extra five minutes and pitted to hand the car over to Sean from sixth place overall. Rejoining the action in 13th position, inside the Pro Cup top 12, the Oxfordshire racer quickly got down to business and at the halfway point of the contest he posted, what would turn out to be, the team’s fastest lap of the day.
Working his way through the order, Sean climbed into seventh place by lap 54 and with only an hour to go he was in the top four and just half a minute shy of the race leader. Moving into the podium placings on lap 56, he climbed into second place two laps later but then made his pit-stop when a full course yellow flag period was introduced – a result of debris on the track.
With just under 55 minutes left on the clock, Plowman replaced Sean behind the wheel for the run to the chequered flag and after all of the pit-stops had concluded he held fourth position overall and fourth in the Pro Cup.
Under pressure from the Audi of Stephane Ortelli, Plowman fended off the threat initially before being edged back to fifth on lap 65. Continuing to circulate with strong pace, he held position all the way to the flag on lap 84 to cap an excellent performance for the trio.
“Getting up to fourth was incredible”, reflected Sean, “We were a bit unfortunate not being able to keep it but Martin did a great job at the end, with brakes which were starting to go, to stay in the top five. During my stint we were one of the quickest on track, I did struggle a little bit in practice so it was great to get into a really nice rhythm in the race and put in some really good lap times.”
Round three of the Blancpain Endurance Series will take place at Paul Ricard HTTT in France over the weekend 19th/20th June. Before then, the sister Blancpain Sprint Series will be back on track for the third event of its season at Zolder in Belgium on 6th/7th June.
Provisional 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series Driver Standings (after Rd2):
5th Sean Walkinshaw/Craig Dolby/Martin Plowman, 16pts
Provisional 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series Team Standings (after Rd2):
4th MRS GT-Racing, 20pts