With a good pre-race test event and a small BOP break previously resulting in a return to the MLMC podium last time out at Spa, MPS made the flight down to the Algarve full of confidence ahead of the final race of the 2023 season.
Resuming his Race & Performance engineering duties, MPS’ Ben Newman had high confidence in his car setup decisions after a good test with the team at the circuit during the summer break, and therefore focused his efforts on improving the team’s Am driver Jonesy’s performance around the undulations of the Portuguese circuit.
Using the MPS tried and tested data driven driver development techniques Jonesy found himself having his best ever performance on a race weekend in a GT3 car throughout the testing and practice, legitimately and repeatedly finding himself amongst the top 3 of the Bronze graded drivers.
Uncharacteristically poor weather conditions affected the Algarve’s circuit on the day of qualifying and the team found themselves faced with a tyre choice dilemma ahead of the short Quali session.
At the time, the rain had been stopped for a while and the track’s surface remained damp but drying and the skies continued looking grey but the weather radar software predicted no more rain for the session.
Based on this, the team took the gamble to start the short session on slick tyres, in the hope that as the cars circulated the track would dry and the slick tyres would offer the best performance come the end of the session.
Unfortunately, we found ourselves on the wrong side of a gamble as un-forecasted rain fell near the end of the session, just as the slick tyres were coming up to temperature, and the SD team’s Am driver found himself in last position after such a good showing in practice.
However, rain was forecasted for race day and the team had a quiet confidence about their performance potential in wet conditions in the well balanced Porsche.
MPS made some data driven setup changes to the Porsche 992 ahead of the early morning wet race and Jonesy took the start of the race with nothing to lose and a strong self confidence in his on track potential.
With the MLMC competitors respecting the track conditions brought around by mother nature, the final race of the season actually turned out to be one of the least incident races of the season. This gave the hard charging Jonesy the green flag running time to build his confidence, get into a rhythm and simply drive past competitor after competitor as the race progressed.
In what was undoubtedly the stint of his career to date, Jonesy regularly found himself as the fastest man on track, especially as the conditions worsened, and he and his optimised Porsche 992 GT3R found themselves knocking on the door of the top 5 as the pit window opened.
With the lack of incidents presenting no real strategy opportunities for MPS’ Ben Newman, the Team Parker pit crew found themselves releasing the team’s Pro driver Scott back on track after another faultless pit stop in the same position as the car entered the pit lane.
Scott once again showed his class, picking up where Jonesy left off and further highlighting the great performance potential of the MPS & TPR setup Porsche, he also regularly put in fastest laps in class at the time as the conditions worsened.
Due to the gap built up by the front runners at the start of the race, whilst Jonesy was cutting his way through from the his start position at the back of the grid, Scott ideally needed one of the many safety car periods that plagued the rest of the races this season to bunch up the field but sod’s law dictated that this wasn’t to be the case this time.
Still, he quickly picked off the low hanging fruit to make up 3 places to get himself into a podium position and then set about taking seconds a lap out of the lead pair as he quickly was reducing the half a minute or so gap to the race leader.
As the rains began to worsen, Scott’s current progress rate was setting himself up for 2 or 3 laps at the end to challenge for the victory however mother nature once again intervened and the heavens fully opened, forcing the race director to make the correct decision to red flag the race on safety grounds with around 20 mins to go.
With no break in the weather forecasted for hours, this race would not resume and the Team Parker Racing crew settled for a third podium position finish in their maiden season – taking with them confidence of knowing that they had the potential for a race win as they headed into the off season.
MPS finish the 2023 race season very proud of both our own and the team as a whole’s performance in what was a first season in a new international level Championship, whilst competing with a late arriving new car that clearly had been over BOP’ed for the majority of the season.