MPS were delighted to stand below the infamous Spa Francorchamps podium as they watched their SD Team with Team Parker Racing drivers secure another top 3 finish in their maiden season of the international Championship.
After securing a 2nd place podium at the opening event, largely through some good strategy calls, MPS and the TPR crew had struggled for the mid part of the season to compete on outright pace with some of our competitors.
Fortunately, with another GT3 car in the team and the team also having the same model of car competing in another BOP based championship, we could clearly see that the harsh BOP settings for the car set by the MLMC organisers were the primary cause of the lack of performance and didn’t lose our heads as we did our best to optimise the ‘cards that we were dealt’.
Frustratingly, the organisers will only make BOP decision changes once a significant amount of race data has been collected and the 2023 season had unfortunately featured a vast amount of incident induced reduced paced running up to this point.
Still, prior to the Spa race, the BOP decision committee deemed that they had now collected enough data to determine that our sole Porsche 992 GT3R competing in the Championship had been harshly penalised and MPS and the rest of the team gratefully received the first (in what they hope will be many) BOP reductions for the car.
The performance gains were felt immediately and both drivers quickly found themselves mixing it with the quickest of their respective competitors throughout the event’s practice sessions.
A Top 3 finish at the end of the free practice sessions quantified this and validated MPS’ setup decisions.
With Jonesy improving every time that he took to the track, thanks in part to the MPS data driven driver development sessions, he put in his best qualifying performance to date to secure a start from 8th place in the 1 hour and 50 minutes long race.
The race itself can only be defined by the word “carnage” with a multiple car incident at turn 1 of the race setting the tone for the next 110 minutes of racing.
Still, Jonesy kept a cool head and avoided the trouble caused by those around him, making good progress in the limited amount of green flag running. Before he knew it he had made up 4 places and was looking at the podium places ahead of him whilst he proceeded around in another safety car train, as he approached the opening of the Pit Window at the end of his stint.
With circa half a minute remaining before the pit window officially opened as the safety car train approached the pit entry, some of MPS’ and SD Team’s competitors took the ‘un-sporting’ and outright dangerous decision to stop on track at pit entry whilst counting down the time to the pit window opening.
The #18 crew didn’t divulge in these dirty tactics and continued running in the safety car train and instead pitted at the end of the next lap, in the process losing a handful of positions to the underhand tactics of some of their competitors.
The team’s Pro driver, Scott Malvern, emerged back on track for the closing stint, finding himself on the outskirts of the Top 10 as the race was once again neutralised by safety cars.
In a small period of green flag running in the middle of his stint, Scott skilfully picked off 2 of his competitors but still found himself frustratingly only in 7th position after Jonesy was effectively running in 4th position before the pit stop window.
Another safety car period near the end set the scene for a 9 minute green flag dash to the flag at the end of the race in which Scott attacked with the grit between his teeth.
His nicely balanced Porsche GT3R gave him the opportunities to catch up to and pass 3 more competitors before he was involved in a 3 car battle for 2nd to 4th place positions as the checkered flag dropped at the end of the race, Scott heroically battling back to 4th position on the road.
However, the final result would then be decided in the race director’s office and the un-sporting behaviour around the pit lane entry was under fierce scrutiny.
MPS felt that 2 of the competitors that had finished in front of us had gained an unfair advantage by stopping on track and felt as though we deserved at least 2nd place on merit.
The officials found themselves with only enough physical evidence to penalise one of these two cars and the team were happy enough to settle for a 3rd place finish and their second trip to the MLMC podium in their maiden season.