NISSAN DRIVER MATT SIMMONS RECORDS BEST-EVER INTERNATIONAL GT3 RACE FINISH
Matt Simmons has recorded his best finish in international GT3 racing during the opening round of the 2017 Blancpain GT Endurance Cup at Monza, Italy.
Driving the #22 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 alongside team-mates Matt Parry and Struan Moore, the trio finished 13th after a race of highs and lows.
Parry qualified the #22 GT-R a brilliant sixth place, while Moore had the honour of starting the race.
Moore dropped a couple of places on the opening lap, but it mattered little after a 10 car front straight incident saw the red flag bring the race to a pause.
Unfortunately, the incident involved the #23 Nissan of Lucas Ordonez, who was an innocent part in the opening lap crash. The team withdrew the GT-R due to damage.
After the race restarted, Moore made it as high as third in an excellent opening stint.
Simmons, who earned his place in the Team RJN Nissan team after winning the 2015 GT Academy competition, rejoined the race in fifth place and, given his relative lack of experience against some highly fancied rivals, did a credible job to finish his stint in 11th place.
Qualifying speedster Matt Parry took over the GT-R for the final stint and was making rapid progress through the field until he received a pit lane penalty for a driving indiscretion.
Parry was able to pick his way through to 13th overall. The result is Simmons’ best-ever overall result in the championship, eclipsing his 22nd place finish at Silverstone last year.
The race was won by the Lamborghini of Mirko Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli and Christian Engelhart.
The next round of the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup will be held at Silverstone in the United Kingdom on May 13-14.
“It is always challenging in Blancpain. You kind of need all three hours of the race to go your way,” said Matt Simmons.
“The start was in our favour with the big crash and we were fortunate to get through that. Struan (Moore) did an amazing job to get us up to P3 before his stop.
“I was really pleased with my performance. I was in the deep end, but it was great. I really enjoyed it. I feel like I raised myself to a new level and I’m pleased with what I have been able to achieve.
“We lost a bit of time in the pit stops and obviously with the drive-through penalty for Matt (Parry). Again, you need everything to go your way.
“The team did an amazing job. The car was amazing all day. For our first race day together in car #22, we should all hold our head high, and going into Silverstone, we’ll keep fighting and see what we can do.”
“It was a really exciting first race for the endurance series,” said Mike Carcamo.
“Car #23 had a little bit of bad luck at the start, but #22 had a great showing. They really stepped it up today
“Matt’s growth over the last year has been terrific. This was his first stint as a ‘Pro’ driver and it was really consistent and we were really happy with that.”