2017 British GT Championship drivers champion Rick Parfitt Jnr announced at the end of the 2018 season that he retired from racing. Three months later, the amateur drvier and front man of The RPJ Band, confirmed that he would be back for the 2019 British GT Championship season with JRM.
With media day underway at Donington Park, Parfitt Jnr joined the series press conference and was asked by British GT press officer Tom Hornsby how the shortest retirement in British GT history came to an end.
“Firstly I really did not expect to be sat here when I said I was going to retire. How can you retire from a hobby? It was 100% serious.
I had three amazing years with Parkers (Team Parker Racing) who I love with all my heart. They gave me the opportunity to win the championship and I had a wonderful time. But I felt that my time was definitely done. I was very fortunate that lots of people decided I shouldn’t.
I got some amazing offers from Blancpain and the BTCC and I turned all of them down. My focus really was on getting my heath a little better with my Crohn’s Disease and to spend a bit more time with the family. I’m away a lot with my band as well so it was all taking a bit of a toll.
Then quite literally out of the blue I got a call from JRM and I quite nicely said no. They said come down and see us so I went down and saw what they are all about. I didn’t realise how big JRM Group are with their manufacturing, everything they do and their secret projects they do which I’m not allowed to talk about. Its deeply impressive.
I was definitely enthused by their attitude and the thought of getting back to racing. Then they told me who they were recruiting to run the project and there is a deeply impressive range of people involved, including Elliot who has extensive experience in Formula 1.
So I thought the only way I could get out of this is to make a raft of absolutely undeliverable demands, which they all agreed to! So there was only one thing more I could say. They offered a range of drivers and I said that no, I’m definitely not doing it with any of them. If I were to come back I would only come back with one person and that’s Seb [Morris]. So they agreed to that as well.
Dad wasn’t averse to a few comebacks so I guess neither am I.
New Team, New Car.
With only a few weeks to prepare for the season and a whole new car to understand, Parfitt Jnr’s short test at the tail end of the 2018 season provided valuable experience with the new car. Despite a highly truncated timetable, the former champion is confident that he and his co-driver will be able to fight from the front in 2019.
“I’ve only had a few laps in it around here. The gen 1 car, our car we raced last year was chassis number 2, so it’s had a bit of a rough life, lets put it that way. It was still an amazingly fun car to drive.
As most people on the grid know there were a few inherent, I won’t say faults but things that make it a little bit tricky, especially in the wet. All of these things, M-Sport has been working very very carefully to build a car that is fundamentally different. Immediately from the first few laps you can tell the weight distribution is massively different, so our traction is a lot better. The car is much more stable, seat position is lower, the whole weight distribution of the car is a lot lower than it was on the old one. The ergonomics are a lot better as well.
From the short little period I could enjoy it around here at the end of the last season I had a little niggle to myself. I was saying ‘Oh I wish I could race this.’ I really felt that something special could be done with it. With a year of M-Sport running the car they have ironed out the faults as far as I’m aware. That’s obviously culminated in a dominant performance out in COTA.
Our car is still being fettled but we are going to have a run out shortly and we still have enough time to get a testing schedule. We are going to be at Snetterton and Portimao and a couple at Oulton Park. So hopefully by the time that Seb and I arrive at Oulton we will be fully prepared.”
Its More Fun Than F1.
Of the championship itself Rick Parfitt had nothing but praise for the atmosphere, the response of the paddock and the quality of the competition.
“The response from everyone to me coming back has been nothing short of very humbling. Its really lovely to be welcomed back so warmly. Make no mistake, to all the new people coming in , this championship is immensely special. Year on year it just gets stronger and stronger. I think with GT3 growing and the new generation cars its immensely exciting.
I was just a punter a minute ago and I went out to the hairpin. Watching everyone fire out it just fires you. And that’s whats great about this series. Its great to see all the new talent coming up through GT4 and the amazing cars in GT4. As far as I’m concerned its more fun than F1. It’s the sponsors and the drivers and the cars and the atmosphere that make this very special. I’m very pleased to be back.”