Six months ago, Rick Parfitt was saying his goodbyes to the British GT paddock at the Donington Park season finale. Now, on the eve of the 2019 season, the Bentley driver is back in the drivers’ seat and raring to get going again.
“I was thoroughly focused on retiring, and that was genuinely the thing. The band is super busy, my company is super busy and I wanted to spend a bit more time with my wife, my family. Plus, my health was bad at the end of last year and I’ve made a lot of progress with my health, working very, very well with the dietician,” Parfitt said.
“This new medication that I’m on seems to be keeping it slightly under control so hopefully that’s a benefit. But still, I just thought I was looking forward to a good year and I was very lucky – I got offers from Blancpain, from BTCC. I turned everything down – genuinely I was pipe and slippers or just concentrating on my band and stuff.”
The deal that convinced him to put down his pipe and slippers comes with a new team in the shape of JRM, more commonly associated with Nissan’s GT1 efforts, which makes the switch to Bentley’s second-generation Continental GT3 for the team’s return to GT racing.
His 2019 drive also reunites the self-described ‘dream team’ with 2017 championship-winning team-mate Seb Morris – the only driver Parfitt said he would partner with.
“JRM told me who was involved in this project which is absolutely incredible and the amount of ex-F1 staff they’ve got running it all – I thought ‘that’s impressive’. Still, I thought ‘well, I still have to try and get myself out of this’ so I made an absolute list of ridiculous demands which they all said yes to,” Parfitt admitted.
“So I was getting myself deeper and deeper into it and finally said ‘well I absolutely won’t drive with anyone else other than Seb’ – which they then also agreed to.”
The second-generation Bentley isn’t a new car for the 2013 GT4 champion having tested it in Spain last year, and Parfitt was effusive in his praise for the car built by World Rally Championship front-runners M-Sport.
“It’s an epic car,” he said. “I walked out of it thinking ‘what a shame I’ll probably never be racing it’ so obviously I’m very excited to be back. Bentley has been really lovely to me as well, they didn’t want me to stop either, they’ve been massively supportive of all of this while we’ve been getting the programme put together.
Adding significance to the season is the 100th anniversary of Bentley, and that – combined with everything else – has made 2019 a ‘dream’ for Parfitt.
He added: “To come back in Bentley’s 100th year, with a new generation car, with Seb, and reuniting what everyone is calling the dream team and giving it a really good competitive go with a former GT1 world championship team running you with all ex-F1 staff, that’s the stuff of dreams right?
“As I’ve always said, my father wasn’t averse to a comeback and neither am I.”