Barwell Motorsport and Century Motorsport took pole position for Sunday’s two-hour Intelligent Money British GT Championship at Spa as an action-packed qualifying session wasn’t settled until the closing moments.
Dennis Lind once again proved he’s the master of Belgium with a superb lap in GT3 qualifying, while Gus Burton left it until the chequered flag to secure GT4 pole for Century.
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Right from the off, the Barwell Motorsport crew of Lind and Leo Machitski stamped their authority on the session as the latter put the Lamborghini Huracán to the top of the times with his very first lap.
The Russian, possibly the most experience of all the Ams around Spa thanks to countless laps during the 24 Hours, set an imposing benchmark of 2m22.157. He then shaved a tenth off that on his next tour to put himself almost three-tenths clear of next-best Richard Neary in the Team Abba Racing Mercedes.
Handing the car over to Lind, the Dane’s pace was more than enough to seal pole for the duo – despite his lap not being the fastest in the Pro section of qualifying.
That’s because Ross Gunn, the returning 2015 GT4 champion, pulled out an absolute screamer of a lap to move the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin onto the outside of the front-row.
His move into second was assisted by a great fourth place in Am qualifying by Andrew Howard, the last driver to get within a second Machitski’s early effort.
Their combination of swift laps relegated the RAM Racing duo of Yelmer Buurman and Ian Loggie down to third by less than 0.150sec – Buurman putting in the second-fastest lap of qualifying to secure the place.
Fourth, and almost 2.6seconds down on pole, was the second of the Barwell Lamborghinis piloted by Adam Balon and Sandy Mitchell. Balon’s lap of 2m24.358sec highlighted his relative inexperience around Spa, but Mitchell’s 2m19.851sec demonstrated just how quick the young Scot is proving to be wherever he races.
Also showcasing how rapid their becoming was the father-and-son duo of Stewart and Lewis Proctor, as two solid laps in both their sessions placed the Balfe Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 in fifth.
Michael Igoe and Phil Keen qualified sixth in a session where the WPI Motorsport Huracán seemed to struggle for pace again, with Keen’s lap of 2m20.785sec not what you’d expect at all from someone as rapid as him.
Team Rocket RJN qualified seventh in the hands of Mia Flewitt and Euan Hankey, with the GTC Ferrari of Omar Jackson and Charlie Hollings eighth.
Not setting laps in the Pro section of qualifying was Sam Neary. After father Richard’s great opening lap, Sam got into the car as a contender for pole, but he had his first lap deleted for track limits and then had a spin at La Source heading onto his second which appeared to be terminal as he didn’t get going again. He’ll round out the GT3/GTC field in ninth.
Two cars that didn’t qualify at all were the Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini – still be repaired from a Free Practice crash – and the Team Parker Racing Porsche, which has been withdrawn after sustaining significant damage after Scott Malvern’s FP2-ending shunt at Raidillon.
In contrast to recent sessions, the GT4 pole wasn’t decided until the very last lap of the session with any number of cars well in contention of starting at the front.
In the first part of qualifying, Matt Cowley demonstrated that just because he’s making his Spa debut, it doesn’t mean he’s not in the pole mix as he qualified the Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang 0.378sec clear of the rest of the pack.
Handing over to Will Moore, it was clear that the latter didn’t have the car in as comfortable a zone as Cowley as he struggled to match his team-mate’s pace, eventually qualifying down in sixth.
That allowed the pole fight to really open up. On the first of the flying laps, Scott McKenna was flying in the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK Supra but had his opening lap – which would have soared he and co-driver John Ferguson to pole – cancelled because of a track limits penalties.
His eventual lap secured the outside of the front-row for the team as it looks to bounce back from Donington disappointment.
They were denied pole by a fantastic final lap from Gus Burton. The #57 BMW M4 GT4 had been in the mix from the start after Will Burns finished the first session third. Seemingly denied by both McKenna and Darren Turner in the Newbridge Aston, it wasn’t until the very final lap of the session that Burton sneaked in his fastest lap of the weekend to secure pole for Century by 0.244sec.
McKenna and Ferguson only remained on the front-row by the skin of their teeth, as Turner piled on the pressure in the Vantage, but missed out by 0.023sec – instead settling for third in the car he shares with Matt Topham, the latter making his first appearance at the Belgian circuit.
Fourth went to the Balfe Motorsport duo of Ash Marshall and Jack Brown in what is easily their most competitive qualifying this year in the McLaren 570S. Marshall was second-quickest in the first qualifying session, but silver-rated Brown couldn’t match the pace of the Pros to qualify any higher than the outside of the second-row.
Alain Valente and Michael Benyahia put their Team Rocket RJN McLaren into fifth, more than seven-tenths clear of the Academy Mustang.
Seventh was Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke and Chris Salkeld in what is now a Silver Cup entry from this weekend onwards after an upgrading of Salkeld’s driver rating. While they might be disappointed not to be higher, they will be happy to have got out at all, having had to end FP2 early after Gordon-Colebrooke span and hit the barriers at Double Gauche. Thankfully, the damage was mainly cosmetic.
Harry Hayek and Katie Milner qualified eighth in the second of the Rocket McLarens, while Steller Motorsport could only qualify ninth. Richard Williams struggled for pace in his first session, while Sennan Fielding had his first two laps deleted for track limits before finally logging a time on his third.
Spa debutant Assetto Motorsport rounds out the ten-car GT4 field, Charlie Robertson and Mark Sansom just a tenth behind the Steller Audi in their Ginetta G56.
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