Rick Parfitt Jr may be known for being a double British GT champion and also in wider circles as the son of the former Status Quo rocker of the same name but he will step into the unknown going into the 2021 season when he joins the British Touring Car Championship for the first time.
Parfitt, joined EXCELR8 Trade Price Cars and will be the final piece in the four car outfit for the joint effort between Justina Williams‘ existing team and Dan Kirby’s side of the paddock.
He will join Tom Ingram, Chris Smiley and Jack Butel behind the wheel of the Hyundai i30N Fastback which heads into its second season. Following the announcement, he caught up with The Checkered Flag to discuss his move into the championship which he admits will be a learning curve.
“I’m really excited by this prospect. It’s an entirely new challenge, as I’ve said previously I’ve got to unlearn everything I know because I’ve never driven front wheel drive, I haven’t driven half the circuits. I haven’t raced sprint since I was in GT5 back in 2011. When they say I’m a BTCC rookie, I am a BTCC rookie in every sense of the word,” said Parfitt to The Checkered Flag.
“So, I’ve got to learn a lot, but it is my learning year. I am looking at being in the BTCC for a little while, so I want to come along, get my head around it.
“I’ve got a lot of friends on the grid so I’m getting a lot of support at the moment, how much support I’ll get when I turn up to the race weekend, I don’t know but everyone is dropping me messages including (Tom) Chilton, (Michael) Crees, Aron Taylor-Smith and Tom Ingram has been very supportive as well.”
A well-schooled GT driver, he was a regular in the British GT Championship winning his double title before taking a year off which coincided with a major operation for Parfitt who suffers with Crohns disease. He discussed the route to BTCC and how he feels lucky to be in this position after being one of the final operations to go ahead before the pandemic began.
“In GT’s, I feel like I’ve proven everything I needed to prove really. I didn’t go into the international scene, I had offers to go into GT World Series and Blancpain because I’m a mildly decent bronze and some might say a safe pair of hands.
“I got a bit disillusioned after 2018 and wanted to walk away but obviously I got brought back in by JRM and Bentley with a fantastic deal to put me and Seb (Morris), the so called dream team back together.”
“But that was a really tough year. We didn’t get on top of the car, it was a bit demoralising, so I was probably going to take 2020 off anyway as I knew I needed to get my health sorted.
“My doctor had told me you can’t mess around anymore; we need to operate now. It was pre-Covid so I was lucky, I guess I was one of the last major operations to go ahead.”
“I’m really thankful because obviously it’s given my health back. I absolutely dread to think if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have that slot what would have happened.”
Passion returns for Parfitt ahead of new challenge
In returning to racing, he continued that it was the idea of a new challenge after so long being in the same paddock that is exciting him more than anything.
“I’ve actually got the excitement again which I lost in British GT. I’ve really got the excitement of the unknown. I’m getting into a car I don’t know. I’m going to circuits I don’t know and I’m racing a different format. It’s all very exciting,” he added.
“Also, the fan engagement has been nuts. I’ve been bowled over with the number of messages and all the well wishes. Honestly, it’s been so lovely. So far, I’ve been very much welcomed and it’s been a very pleasant experience. I just don’t want to disappoint anyone.”
Initial ‘dream team’ with Plato at Power Maxed Racing planned before EXCELR8 move
Before signing, he announced his intention to enter the championship before the end of the 2020 season which saw fans waiting with baited breath to see if he would make his debut.
In the end EXCELR8 was his destination but the initial idea he revealed was to join Jason Plato at Power Maxed Racing and form a ‘dream team’.
“Actually, EXCELR8 came very late to the party. I’d been talking to PMR (Power Maxed Racing) for a long time and the dream was to be Parf and Plato. That would have been a dream team and great on so many levels. I know Jason and I could have learnt from him.
“It was a money thing and being in mind having a shared sponsor that was involved with EXCELR8, it meant that I wouldn’t have had the money to go with PMR at that stage.
“Also, EXCELR8 worked very hard to get me in the car. What I have to say, Adam Weaver and Si McNally were absolute gentleman about it. They really understood how difficult it was and the moment that I knew that it wasn’t a possibility, I phoned them up straight away.”
“It was about getting on the grid and that was the main thing. I’m really happy to be with EXCELR8 having spent a lot of time talking to them as well, they run it strictly like a business, but they are also very passionate. They’re a team that are going places.”
Now he has been announced, the 46-year-old has seemingly already gained a legion of fans joining him in the BTCC which he has dubbed the ‘Parf Army’. With a roadmap potentially out of the pandemic, fans could line the circuits again and it is an aspect of the move that excites Parfitt.
“The fans have to be back. As with all sports, the fans are what make the sport. In the same way that the audience makes concerts. It’s the same thing.
“I just want to be able to give my all and put on a show, even if I’m finishing mid field. If I can entertain people, that’s great. We need everyone back because it’s what the BTCC is all about.”