When Rick Parfitt Junior won last season’s British GT4 title, with Ryan Ratcliffe and Optimum Motorsport, there were few in the pitlane would begrudge them the joy of success. Rick is one of the most enthusiastic drivers in the paddock, who’s doing this for one reason – fun. For 2014, Rick’s switched to a new team – Century Motorsport – and upgraded to the new G55 from the venerable Ginetta G50, to share with Formula Renault convert Tom Oliphant. I sat down with Rick at the British GT media day, and tried to get a word in edgeways…
“I’m feeling really good,” he says. “I mean, Tom’s been brilliant so far. I think having a good team-mate is super-important in this series, and especially in this class as well. We got on straight away when we first met, and he’s been doing an abundance of testing and made a really strong Ginetta Supercup debut as well. He’s come from Formula Renault and he’s a really good convert, really taken to GT racing very well. We get on well – and that’s sometimes worth everything. That you get on in the pitlane. That’s it.”
Listen, I’m a singer, I just get in it. The best bit of feedback I gave was ‘yeah, the car’s alright’
Unlike some drivers in the pitlane who’re starting afresh with teams they’ve never worked with at all, Century is a team Rick knows well.
“I’ve known Nathan at Century since my karting days, so making the switch wasn’t a big deal because I’ve known the guys here for years,” he reckons. “It was the right deal, and the right car. There were flirtations with Astons but where I am now, I couldn’t be happier.”
It’s quite obvious that Rick’s in this for the entertainment, not to try and make a living – his day job involves stadiums and singing with his band, the RPJ Band. So when asked about his feelings on the differences between the G50 and the newer G55…
“Listen, I’m a singer, I just get in it. The best bit of feedback I gave was ‘yeah, the car’s alright’. That was good, as was ‘it’s not as quick as I want it to be’.”
It’s a good thing, then, that his new team have plenty of experience with the car in other series.
“Century know G55s really well, and that gave us a really good base set up and we just go in. They’ve got a really good system in place; I really like the way they work. We chip away, and try something. Every test is by the book, and I quite like that. We analyse data after each session so we’re pretty much on top of it. We’ve got a good set up, we’re running really well today… In the sense that, the last time I went out, I didn’t have to push at all. I was really happy driving around and I could’ve driven around like that for a few hours – it wasn’t stressful or straining at all. For me, with my condition as well, the less effort I have to put in the better.”
He references one particular race last year, when he wasn’t in great shape for much of the weekend.
“I remember last year at Brands, I’d just come out of hospital and the car was a bit of a handful. I basically collapsed when I got out of it – I nearly put it in the wall several times during my stint, so I want to try and avoid having that again!”
I’m quite happy I won it last year, quite frankly! Last year, there were maybe three or four teams that could have won a race, but this year…
It’s a much more competitive GT4 field this year…
“Yeah, it’s amazing!,” he grins, before prompting the question on my lips. “How do I feel about that? I’m quite happy I won it last year, quite frankly! Last year, there were maybe three or four teams that could have won a race, but this year… it’s great! I think the GT4 driver line up rivals the GT3 driver line up, to be perfectly honest with you. If anything, it’s even stronger. I think it’s the coming category and I’m very happy to be back in it.”
There’s just no stopping his enthusiasm – and it’s understandable, considering the improvement in the GT4 field between 2013 and 2014.
“What a great grid, what a great bunch of drivers… it’s fantastic! It’s just brilliant to be part of it. Last year, we went for outright wins every round, but this year your mindset has to be consistency. I truly believe that someone who finishes fourth at every round would probably win the championship. We’re going to try and look at it a bit clever, box a little bit clever the whole season, then see where we finish up.”
I’m here for enjoyment, at the end of the day. Yeah, I’m competitive, but I’m a singer and an average racing driver
As an amateur driver, he’s wary of making any steps he’s not ready for, and thus is very sensible in his progression.
“I always thought to myself I wanted to have two years here – even though I won it last year, I still feel I have a lot to learn before I step into a GT3. There’s no point progressing too quickly. The ultimate aim is Le Mans, there’s no time limit on that as far as I’m concerned.”
So as he’s now ‘reigning British GT4 champion Rick Parfitt Junior’, is there more pressure?
“Actually, there’s less pressure this year. I’ve got the cup at home – it’s too bloody big anyway, there’s nowhere to put it. It would be amazing to be champion again – and obviously we’ll try and win as many as we can, but the aim is to be as near to the front as possible every round. You know what? It’s a long old season and we’ll see where we end up. I feel so much more chilled out in the car, and around the series. It’s all familiar to me now. I’m here for enjoyment, at the end of the day. Yeah, I’m competitive, but I’m a singer and an average racing driver. As far as I’m concerned, singing is my main job and I’m here for fun. It’s got to be fun.”