Nottingham rockstar racer Parfitt Jr aims for British GT title at Donington Park
The British GT Championship battle between luxury supercar manufacturers Bentley and Lamborghini will be decided at Donington Park on 23-24 September, with Nottingham rockstar racer Rick Parfitt Jr leading the standings heading to the final round.
British GT is one of Europe’s top sports car racing series, with Bentley and Lamborghini joined by evocative manufacturers including Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche, Lotus, McLaren and Mercedes Benz among others.
Parfitt Jr, who follows in his famous father’s footsteps as a rock band frontman, will be hoping to clinch the title at his local venue, sharing a British-built Bentley GT3 car with former single seater ace Seb Morris.
“I feel at home at Donington” Parfitt comments. “We moved to Nottingham fairly recently, so I can pop over to the circuit for cups of tea and a burger and take a look at whatever is going on. I also played with my band here at MotoGP a few years back, which was great fun. From a racing perspective, I have done well in all of the categories of racing I have competed in here and been on the podium on most visits to the track.”
Any thoughts on fast food will be put aside on 23-24 September though, as Parfitt faces the challenges of overcoming a 20-second success penalty during the two hour race, earned as a result of winning the previous British GT race at Brands Hatch. “It’s going to be hugely difficult” he admits. “Whilst it is amazing to be coming into my home race in the leading squad for the championship decider, the success penalty will for sure make it difficult. We’re going to need to be as tactical as possible and go as hard at it as we can straight from the off. Qualifying will be important and at the start of the race we will need to push like crazy and get out front to build a gap. Obviously our ultimate aim is to finish ahead of the Lamborghini, but we will have to see.”
Parfitt and Morris hold a slender 10.5 point lead at the top of the standings, but with 37.5 on offer for the race winners, the title race could yet swing back towards Lamborghini duo Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen. Parfitt though thinks that both the Bentley and Lamborghini cars should be evenly matched at Donington, making the decider potentially even tenser. “We have an advantage in tyre performance. Our two main competitor cars, including the Lamborghini, are certainly quicker on brand new tyres, but when the initial grip goes, our tyres perform better than the rest of the grid. We also perform well on a track with long sweeping curves, so the double hairpins at Donington will kill us, but we have a traction upgrade for this event so we hope these issues will be less obvious.”
British GT cars are amongst the most impressive racing machines to take to any racing circuit in the UK. With power outputs of over 500 horsepower and a wide range of engine varieties, the soundtrack to the racing is more than enough to get hairs standing on end, as Parfitt explains: “The cars are amazing, they are incredible bits of machinery as well as being beautiful and aspirational; in fact they are everything you dream of as a 13-year-old boy. They sound amazing – the Ferrari screams and the Bentley sounds like thunder – and from a driver’s perspective, when you have such a big heavy and powerful car on the edge of its adhesion around the corners, the sensation is awesome.”
And Parfitt, who has performed live alongside legendary acts including Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Bryan Ferry, Spandau Ballet and Status Quo admits that the thrills gained from racing are similar to those when appearing on stage: “I have a very similar sense of nervousness actually. I am very competitive and have this same feeling during qualifying as I do at the start of a gig; winning over an audience appeals to my competitive side. Whether I am behind the wheel or the microphone, I give 110% every time, and expect the same from my band members as I do from everyone at Team Parker [the team, behind the Bentley GT3 machine].
“Feedback from the team via radio when you are on track and the audience during a gig drives you on, and you can use tricks of the trade in either situation to go quicker or endear yourself to the crowd. I never give up either on the race or the gig, and always come off the stage and the track knowing that I have done absolutely the best I can do.”
For Pariftt to even be racing at all is a minor miracle. The 42-year-old is an open sufferer of Chrohn’s Disease, which affects him while behind the wheel. “I am open about it simply because I want to share the ups and downs of the disease. I want to acknowledge it, yet still always try my best whatever the circumstances. At both the Silverstone and Oulton Park rounds this year I was suffering with bad flare ups. On a physical level it was agony getting into the car whilst mentally it really got me down, but I refuse to let it stop me from aiming at my dreams and striving to do my best. I think it’s also important to show that everyone has their trials; from the outside I guess my life looks fairly charmed – racing car driver by day and rock and roll performer by night – so even more reason to share the tricky bits of life as well.”
The Bentley man has aspirations to race at the famous Le Mans 24 Hours in France and to perform at Glastonbury. Should he win the British GT title at Donington Park, he could be one giant step closer to achieving his racing dream.
Tickets for the British GT Championship season finale at Donington Park on 23-24 September, which also includes the final rounds of the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship, are available to book in advance from just £12 with free entry for children aged 13 and under. For more information, click here.