Rick Parfitt Jr.: Success at Every Turn
Monday, January 22, 2018

Friday’s BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona International Speedway – the season-opener for the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge – offers a number of extremely talented and intriguing drivers throughout the field.

Among them will be a Sunoco Challenge UK winner, the son of an internationally famous rhythm guitarist, and the lead singer for one of the biggest event bands in the world. Interestingly enough, those titles apply to the same person:  Rick Parfitt Jr.

A London native now living in Nottingham, Parfitt’s victory in the 2017 Sunoco Challenge UK in GT3 competition – the narrowest in the Challenge’s history at 0.42 points – gained him eligibility to race in the BMW Endurance Challenge. Next Friday, he’ll hop behind the wheel of the No. 13 GMG Racing Audi R8 GT4, which he was able to test out at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 earlier this month.

“I was transitioning from a GT3 car to a GT4 car so in essence, a little bit slower and a little bit softer,” he said. “I had a lot to learn with my new team, new teammates, new tires and new circuit so there was quite a lot to do.”

One of the biggest learning curves for Parfitt at the Roar was the 3.56-mile track itself, which is unlike anything he had previously competed on it the UK.

“Obviously, I’ve raced a lot in Britain, but nothing really can compare to the atmosphere you experience when you first come in to Daytona, let alone the sheer enormity of the track as well,” Parfitt said. “It’s awe-inspiring. That’s the best way I can put it I guess.

“It’s just a much, much bigger and much more extreme version of Rockingham, which we have in the UK and which uses banking and goes to an infield as well, so it felt quite familiar. But the actual angle of the banking at 31 degrees is just unbelievable. The first time you hit it and the car just transitions, that’s something you would never forget. I think I was laughing out loud a couple of times going, ‘This is absolutely nuts.’”

However, it’s no laughing matter about how quickly Parfitt has progressed up the ranks since he first got behind the wheel of a race car in 2011. Until then, his racing background primarily consisted of karting events – and wins, such as the British Karting Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans – Karting and Dubai.

But in 2011, he got his big break when the owner of Ginetta, a British corporation specializing in building road and race cars, called and got him into a GT5 seat.

“From there, I moved into GT4 with Ginetta and Ryan Ratcliffe, who was my teammate in GT5 and we paired up in GT4,” said Parfitt. “We won that in our first year in British GT which is an amazing, amazing feeling.”

Parfitt moved up again, this time to GT3, and found outstanding success with Bentley over the last few years. By the end of 2017, the list of titles awarded to the Englishman seemed to go on forever: first driver to win the British GT3 and GT4 Championship; Blancpain Amateur Driver of the Year; Bentley Motors Amateur Driver of the Year; No. 1 Amateur driver in the UK by Autosport Magazine and Motorsport News; the list goes on and on.

“For me, racing was always about proving people wrong, first of all, and proving I could be quick and I could be competitive, where people could take me seriously,” he said. “I’ve done that.”

But there’s also another piece to the puzzle. At the age of nine, Parfitt was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a painful condition caused by inflammation of the digestive tract. Over the years, his passion for research and finding a cure – still yet undetermined – has grown and motivated his work.

“I basically have always been about putting that message out to people who suffer from Crohn’s, that you can achieve your dreams,” said Parfitt, a Crohn’s and Colitis UK Ambassador. “My original dream was to get to Le Mans and to win Pro-Am at Le Mans. So, Daytona and being part of it, is definitely a step to me – adding another string to my bow and being more versatile – and hopefully being able to achieve that and get to Le Mans in the next two years, where I can finally say I’ve done what I’ve set out to achieve.”

Along with finding success in the motorsports realm, Parfitt has found success in the musical realm, which comes as no surprise given his family tree.

His father, Rick Parfitt, was a founding member of the wildly popular UK rock and roll band Status Quo, which to this day has sold over 120 million records. The band, with hits songs like “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” “Rockin’ All Over the World” and “Caroline,” opened the internationally-famous Live Aid benefit concert held in 1985 and with 43 hit albums, sits behind only the Rolling Stones on the British Album Charts.

Given his rock star lifestyle, the elder Parfitt was unable to attend many of his son’s early races, but had become a more frequent visitor before his passing in December, 2016. The memories are bittersweet for Parfitt Jr., especially throughout 2017 as his success kept mounting. His win with teammate Seb Morris at Silverstone this past year hit particularly close to home.

“I was sort of in tears at the podium because the second my teammate got out of the car, his dad came over to give him a hug, and I kind of had no one there this year,” he recalled. “But I remember… at the last race (my dad) ever saw, he was looking through the fencing in the pouring rain, giving me a thumbs-up as I sat on the grid. I just remember that. I felt like he absolutely would’ve loved this and he would’ve been very, very proud this year.

“He was very supportive and what was most important to me is that he was proud of what I was achieving, but it had nothing to do with him whatsoever. I’ve done it completely by myself.”

Still, the musical world drew in Parfitt. The Englishman is the lead singer for The RPJ Band, which has grown into the No. 1 Event Band in the UK and continues to capture international attention.

“It was very difficult for me to get it right in music and make my own way,” he said. “It’s very difficult as the son of someone famous to actually create your own sort of space as it were… I saw these events happening around the world and every time I went, the bands there were either famous people or really average. I just thought to myself that there’s a real gap in the market for a band that’s made up of amazing musicians that bring an absolute rock concert, a big concert feeling to all these events.”

And for the last 10 years, that’s what The RPJ band has been doing. With the goal of bringing passion and big instrumentation to over 100 shows around the world per year, Parfitt has found the same success in music as he has with racing. Now, it’s just a matter of balancing the two, as he’s on tour with his band most days out of the year.

“My first word was car, which is quite funny,” Parfitt Jr. said. “There was no doubt that I would always be around cars and have an insane love of everything with an engine in it.”

In fact, the first time that he climbed in a go-kart was at the house of Roger Taylor, the drummer for Queen.

“I literally went over there when I was about six and I was just hammering around all day, they could not get me out until I ran out of fuel,” Parfitt recalls.

He’s come quite a long way since then, especially giving credit to his wife, his “absolute rock,” and many others.

“I still pinch myself,” he said. “It’s a real honor to be here and I’m thankful to Sunoco. I kept one eye on this prize, but my main goal was to try and win British GT. This was just the cherry on the cake to have won this on top of everything else this year and starting 2018 in a wonderful way for me.”