Marford racing driver Seb Morris celebrated a truly momentous occasion at Oulton Park International Circuit on Bank Holiday Monday, 30th May, with an outstanding maiden British GT Championship race victory in round four of the season at his home track.
Aside from the personal satisfaction of claiming a richly deserved first win in endurance racing on only his third weekend in the discipline since switching from single-seater competition, the highly rated MSA Team UK driver and team-mate Rick Parfitt Jnr also made history for Bentley.
Victory in the one-hour contest, by more than 10 seconds from the duo’s closest challengers, marked the first ever success in the championship for the Bentley Continental GT3 and came off the back of Seb’s second pole position of the season in the Team Parker Racing-run machine.
Additionally, the 20-year-old Welshman also concluded the event with the award for setting the fastest race lap of the weekend, a time of 1m34.804 seconds (102.22mph), which came during his flawless opening stint in round four. The sensational lap time is a new Oulton Park International Circuit record for GT3, smashing the previous benchmark by a massive 0.7 seconds.
The opportunity to claim a double victory was actually there in the preceding third round until a problem in the pit-stop, when the Bentley was blocked in by a McLaren, robbed the Team Parker duo of a deserved success. Mounting a remarkable recovery drive in the second half hour, Seb carved his way through into the podium positions and came within a whisker of snatching second.
“It’s amazing to get the win”, said an ecstatic Seb after round four, “We didn’t have any hiccups in the race, everything ran so smoothly – it was absolutely brilliant. We could really push the car, we made some changes between the races and they worked fantastically well.
“All of the guys in the team did a top job all weekend, massive thanks to everyone at Team Parker, to Rick, obviously, for doing a great job in his stints and to Bentley too – we have an incredible car. We had a lot of friends and family along this weekend, being the home track, so it’s amazing to be able to celebrate this win in front of them and to help make a piece of history for Bentley.”
Beginning the third race weekend of the season on top of the timesheets in the first of two practice sessions, leading the way by 0.2 seconds with a time of 1m34.419 seconds (102.64mph), the Team Parker Racing duo then ended session two inside the top five – continuing their strong preparation.
Qualifying on Saturday, 28th May, began with the ‘Am’ session, in which Parfitt Jnr secured third on the grid for the first of the weekend’s two races with a lap of 1m35.680 seconds (101.28mph), only 0.1 seconds shy of pole position.
In the ‘Pro’ run, determining the grid for round four, Seb took the wheel of the Bentley Continental and produced an excellent lap of 1m33.606 seconds (103.53mph) to secure the second grid-topping start of his maiden season in British GT – fittingly by 0.031 seconds in the No.31 car!
Parfitt Jnr took the opening stint of round three and made an excellent start, slicing into second place on the run into Old Hall. Following an early Safety Car period, he continued to hold position tight behind the leading Lamborghini and both pitted for their respective stops at the end of lap 14.
While the driver-change for Team Parker went well, it looked as though Seb would rejoin ahead of the Lamborghini, as he readied to leave the pit box he was blocked-in by a McLaren which cost a significant amount of time.
Rejoining the race in eighth position, by lap 19 Seb was into the top five and then moved into fourth at the end of lap 20 when the McLaren had to serve a penalty related to the pit incident. On lap 26, he moved into third place at Hislops and produced a remarkable effort to reel in Joe Osborne.
With a gap of 6.4 seconds to make up, Seb delivered some sensational laps to decimate the advantage held by the BMW and with just three laps to go the Welshman was tight to the rear bumper of Osborne’s car. Pressuring his rival into a mistake out of Old Hall on the 35th and final lap, Seb continued to push and at the flag he was just two tenths adrift of second place on the run to the line.
From pole position in round four, Seb made a perfect start to lead into Old Hall. With searing pace, he punched in a series of fastest laps and by the end of lap 16 he held a lead of more than 10 seconds. When the pit window opened for the driver change stops, Seb remained on track and when he entered the pits at the end of lap 20, his advantage was around 13 seconds.
Parfitt Jnr emerged from a clean stop, with no repeat of the pitlane dramas of race one, with the lead intact and when the upper order balanced out after the remainder of the stops the Bentley was 9.5 seconds clear at the end of lap 22.
Heading into the final five minutes roughly 11 seconds clear, as a result of a GT4 Ginetta crashing out at Lodge corner the race was red flagged. With the result declared at the end of lap 32, the winning margin was 10.5 seconds.
There are only two weeks to wait until the next instalment of British GT action, at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in Northamptonshire, over the weekend 11th/12th June.
2016 British GT Championship GT3 Driver Standings (after Rd4):
3rd Seb Morris & Rick Parfitt Jnr, 68.5pts
2016 British GT Championship Pro-Am GT3 Driver Standings (after Rd4):
3rd Seb Morris & Rick Parfitt Jnr, 70pts
2016 British GT Championship GT3 Team Standings (after Rd4):
3rd Team Parker Racing, 68.5pts