• Early Rd3 incident for Team Parker leaves Seb Morris unenviable task
• Expectedly rapid pace from Welsh ace helps recover Paul Ricard points
• International focus now turning to Bentley ‘works’ debut at Spa 24hrs
Bentley Continental GT3 racer Seb Morris endured yet another frustrating weekend in the Blancpain Endurance Cup during round three of the season at Paul Ricard in France, when early contact for the Team Parker Racing entry left the Welshman with an absolute mountain to climb.
Incredibly, as has been the way throughout the 2019 campaign, misfortune struck on the second lap of the six-hour race on Saturday, 1st June, when team-mate Derek Pierce was caught-up in a tangle which led to significant damage to the No.31 Bentley.
Following a lengthy pit-stop for repairs, all 23-year-old Morris could do was push as hard as possible during his stints to try and recover as many championship points as he could. Impressively, just as he did in similar circumstances at Silverstone in round two, the Chester driver delivered searing pace.
In the end, Morris, Pierce and Rob Smith concluded the ‘into the night’ race seventh in Pro-Am and Morris’ best lap of 1m54.167 seconds was not only just shy of the fastest in Pro-Am but also only a mere 0.2 seconds outside the best produced by the outright race winning Bentley Team M-Sport car.
“After Derek had the crash, and the car had been repaired thanks to some great work by the Team Parker guys, I went back out and was pretty much the fastest car out there so there are a lot of positives to take away from my side”, reflected Morris.
“I caught-up to the leading pack and actually passed a Lamborghini which was hassling one of the works Bentleys, so that was pretty good! My average stint time was within two tenths of a second, and that was one of the fastest stint times overall, so I’m very happy with that.”
He added: “It’s obviously not been the season we wanted so far in Blancpain, which is a huge shame, but I’ve been powerless to be honest as incidents have happened and things gone wrong before I’ve had chance to get into the car. Now I’m looking forward to Spa at the end of July and being part of the Pro car with M-Sport for the first time – it’s an incredible opportunity.”
Session one of final qualifying at Paul Ricard on Saturday was taken by Pierce and he ended the run with the third fastest time in Pro-Am, before Smith got behind the wheel for session two where he was sixth fastest in class.
Morris contested the third session and the BRDC Superstar and Motorsport UK ‘Team UK’ racer posted a strong lap of 1m53.491 seconds, third quickest in Pro-Am, which helped to improve the combined average of each drivers’ best laps to secure fifth in Pro-Am for the round three grid.
Pierce started the encounter, which began at 18.00 local time, and moved up into fourth in class on an incredibly busy opening lap but a tangle the next time around, on the Mistral Straight, resulted in major damage to the Bentley and necessitated the unscheduled and lengthy pit visit.
Losing the best part of an hour as Team Parker worked intensely to get the car back into the race, when the No.31 Bentley was ready Morris climbed behind the wheel and set about doing everything possible – albeit with the squad a huge 36 laps down on the race leaders.
Through the various driver cycles during the remainder of the encounter, Morris, Smith and Pierce battled as hard as possible with seventh in Pro-Am the best they could manage having lost so much time in the first hour.
Now, putting the weekend’s disappointment behind him, Morris is focusing on his graduation into Bentley’s official ‘works’ team, M-Sport, for the next round of the Blancpain Endurance Cup season, the Total 24 Hours of Spa at the end of July. Joining the team’s full ‘Pro’ line-up for the biggest race on the international GT3 calendar, Morris is quite understandably relishing the prospect.
“From now on in Blancpain until the 24 hour race I’m officially an M-Sport driver, so I’ll be working closely with Bentley to make sure we’re as well prepared as we can be”, said Morris, “It’s going to be good to get used to the team at M-Sport over the next few weeks, get to know the mechanics, and hopefully we’ll be at the sharp end when the race arrives.”
Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium will host the Total 24 Hours of Spa over the weekend 27th/28th July, with two days of official testing scheduled for the beginning of July. Next weekend, 8th/9th June, Morris will be back in action in the British GT Championship for round five at Silverstone GP Circuit.