Two masterful laps in soaking wet conditions gave Optimum Motorsport’s Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis their first British GT pole position as the series headed for its annual trip to Spa-Francorchamps.
In GT4, Jacob Mathiassen’s insistence on going out on slicks secured a maiden pole position for the #42 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 he shares with Mark Kimber.
With a typical heavy Spa rain shower striking 30 minutes before the start, the field braced itself for a first wet qualifying of 2019 and it was Wilkinson who took full advantage in his Aston Martin V8 Vantage as he traded the top spot with Team Parker Racing’s Ryan Ratcliffe in the ten-minute Am section of qualifying.
The two silver-rated drivers pulled ahead of their bronze-graded rivals as the chequered flag fell with Wilkinson’s 2m42.992s half-a-second faster than Ratcliffe’s best effort in the Bentley and 2.6sec clear of Rick Parfitt’s JRM Group Continental GT3.
Wets were still needed for the second section of qualifying despite the beginnings of a dry line starting to appear on the Ardennes circuit and while Ellis’s lap wasn’t the fastest in his section, their combined effort was more than 1.8sec clear of the rest of the 15-car field.
Snatching away second as the chequered flag came out was Dennis Lind in the WPI Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo. Team-mate Michael Igoe’s lap in the opening part of qualifying was only good enough for 11th, but the Dane’s fastest lap of the weekend – a 2m39.652s – was good enough for the pair to leapfrog the competition and line-up on the front-row.
Lind’s other-worldly lap pushed Team Parker down to third – despite Glynn Geddie’s equally brisk performance as he took over the Bentley from Ratcliffe.
Fourth went to another different manufacturer as the Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Callum Macleod and Ian Loggie beat out championship contenders Adam Balon and Phil Keen in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini.
Adam Christodoulou took sixth in the Team ABBA Racing Mercedes he shares with Richard Neary, the pair pipping Jonny Cocker and Sam De Haan in the second Barwell car.
Jacob Mathiassen’s insistence on going out on slick Pirelli tyres in the first part of GT4 qualifying proved to be the deciding factor in the qualifying battle as he combined with Mark Kimber to take pole by more than two seconds.
Having watched the GT3s form a dry line from the pit wall, Mathiassen told the Century Motorsport team to put dry rubber on his BMW M4 and, as the track got even drier, his fastest lap was 3.373sec quicker than the rest of the wet-shod field.
He told GT REPORT: “It was a bit scary at the start to be honest! On the first lap I didn’t know if it the was right decision to make, but as the dry line became even more prominent, I managed to find more speed and become more confident to push.
“I made the decision on the tyres, the team weren’t as sure but I knew it was the right conditions to go onto slicks.”
Joining the BMW on the front-row is Tom Price and Patrick Kibble in the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage. The pair took the runner-up spot by less than a tenth of a second from points leaders Seb Priaulx and Scott Maxwell – the former taking bragging rights over his father Andy who qualified 21st driving alongside Chris Hoy.
Fourth went to the Tolman McLaren 570S of Josh Smith and James Dorlin. Smith was rapid in the dry conditions, a warning shot to rivals tomorrow as the forecast shows blue skies and sunshine.
Martin Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher took Pro-Am pole in their Beechdeam AMR Aston Martin – helped by Fletcher’s strong third in the first session. They’ll line-up alongside another Aston Martin as the Tom Canning and Ash Hand driven TF Sport entry qualified sixth.
The two-hour race gets underway at 12.30pm local time tomorrow (11.30am in the UK), with the entire race streamed live on GT REPORT – watch out for the link in the morning.