Will Jenkins produced a fantastic performance to secure rookie class silverware during a surprise GT4 European Series debut at Paul Ricard this past weekend (03/04 June).
Only a few days prior to the event, Jenkins received a late call from former team Elite Motorsport with the opportunity to make his European race debut in their new McLaren Artuta GT4, joining the support bill of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe.
The 18-year-old talent was straight in at the deep end as he joined the hugely competitive 56 car GT4 European Series grid with no previous experience of the McLaren or the complex Paul Ricard circuit.
Jenkins, who is part of BTCC team Motorbase Performance’s Young Driver Programme and primarily races in the Porsche Sprint Challenge GB this season, did a fantastic job to adapt quickly to his new surroundings.
Sharing the Artura with former British GT4 champion and BTCC racer Jack Mitchell, Jenkins made some good progress during official testing on Thursday and then got more valuable running under his belt in both dry and wet conditions during a pair of free practice sessions the next day.
After Mitchell secured them tenth on the grid for race one in the opening qualifying session, Jenkins posted a lap good enough for the top 15 in his 20-minute session. The time was removed for a track limits infringement though, leaving them out of position for the start of race two in P26.
The opening one-hour race on Saturday started with Mitchell running on the fringes of the top ten throughout his stint, before handing over to Jenkins at the halfway mark. Emerging in 10th place, he quickly got to grips with the McLaren in race trim and started to learn the car’s strengths compared to its rivals.
The Stone-based racer maximised the cars abilities to catch and pass Porsche and Audi machinery on his way to a brilliant eighth place at the chequered flag. That result earnt him silverware too as he finished up at the leading championship rookie.
Jenkins would start behind the wheel of the McLaren for race two and he found himself in the thick of the competitive midfield action from the off. The former Ginetta racer impressively gained multiple places through his stint, including a successful move on the sister Elite Motorsport McLaren.
The race turned on its head only minutes after Mitchell took over, as rain started the fall. As other teams pitted for wet tyres, Elite gambled in keeping their McLarens out on slick tyres and it proved to be an inspired gamble, with Mitchell impressively staying out of trouble and climbing to eighth place at the finish.
Will Jenkins: ’“It was certainly a surprise to get the call from the team presenting this opportunity and I’m so grateful to them for the offer. To get the chance to make my European racing debut in such a great, competitive championship was amazing and I loved every second of the experience.
“I really enjoyed getting to grips with the McLaren Artura, it’s a brilliant car and a pleasure to drive. I’m happy with the pace I was able to show from the off and while it’s frustrating to have lost my best lap in qualifying, we more than made up for it in the races.
“The close quarters, action-packed racing was great fun and I enjoyed pulling off some moves in both races. Hats off to Jack for his drive in race two on slick tyres in torrential rain, and to Elite for a brilliant job with the car all weekend. Thank you again to the team for this opportunity and to Hopkins Motorsport and my other personal partners for their support.”
Jenkins' 2023 race season is set to resume in eight weeks' time (29/30 July) as he continues his maiden Porsche Sprint Challenge GB campaign at Croft in North Yorkshire.
Image from Gruppe C Photography.