Jules Gounon smashed the Intelligent Money British GT Championship lap record at Oulton Park to score pole on his debut, while Shaun Balfe marked his return to the championship to take the top spot for the first of two 60-minute races on Monday.
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In GT4, it’s a double Audi pole as Richard Williams steam-rollered the field to take Race One pole for Steller Motorsport, while Darren Turner took Race Two pole for Newbridge Motorsport as he broke the lap record in the secondary class.
Shaun Balfe powered his Balfe Motorsport Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 to a remarkable pole position on his team’s return to racing in Britain to round out a Saturday where the red machine had been in the mix at the top throughout.
Balfe moved to the top with just under half of the 10-minute session remaining, as he became the first to drop under the 1m35sec barrier with a 1m34.946sec, and then with his next two laps he continued improving his time all the way down to a 1m34.692.
Joining him on the front row for the first race, was Richard Neary. The Team Abba Racing driver was always battling for the top from the word go in his Mercedes-AMG GT3 and fell just short of Balfe’s pace-setting time by 0.125sec.
Morgan Tillbrook made it three marques in the top three as he powered the OnlyFans-backed Enduro Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 to within a tenth of Neary and a start on the second-row which he will no doubt be hoping to use a springboard to the lead with a strong opening lap in Monday morning’s first race.
That said, he’s got Graham Davidson next to him, and the Scot – who only got the call to jump in the Team Rocket RJN McLaren 720S GT3 on Tuesday – has taken to the car like a duck to water. He was 0.059sec off Tillbrook’s lap, a great achievement considering he admitted his preparation was two hours on a sim and Friday’s test sessions.
James Cottingham was half-a-tenth behind in fifth on his return to British GT with 2 Seas Motorsport, while Alex Malykhin took sixth on his debut for Redline Racing in its first race with the Lamborghini Huracán GT3.
In a sign of just how explosive the races could be, seventh to tenth on the grid was covered by 0.137sec with Kevin Tse heading a chain including Nick Halstead, Michael Igoe and Ian Loggie – who complained of not being able to shake off tyre pick-up after running slightly wide at Druids on his outlap.
Richard Williams dominated GT4 qualifying in what turned out to be a comfortable session for the Steller Motorsport boss. Williams first lap was a 1m42.395sec, and no one could get close to that at all – indeed, the closest rival for him was Benji Hetherington and his best effort was only a 1m43.048sec, not a bad lap by any means but a sign of just how strong the Audi R8 LMS GT4 is becoming.
While the gap from first to second was pretty big, the difference from second to third was just 0.001sec with Jamie Orton desperately unlucky to miss out on the front-row in the Team Parker Racing Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport.
Toyota Gazoo Racing UK took the final spot on the second-row with Tom Edgar setting a 1m43.114sec – only just remaining ahead of Pro-Am pace-setter Matt Topham in the Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
When the Pros took over the cars to set the grid for Race Two, there was a feeling of Déjà vu as Adam Carroll took over the Balfe Audi and put it on pole with a 1m32.799sec.
The thought of a Balfe double didn’t particularly last long though, as Jules Gounon lit up the timing screens in the RAM Mercedes-AMG GT3. Going purple all the way round the Cheshire circuit, his time eventually stopped the watch with a 1m32.384sec – beating the previous lap record of a 1m32.869sec pretty comfortably.
It also put him comfortably clear of the rest of the field too, with Carroll not able to improve on his fastest time, to be on the front-row with a deficit of more than four-tenths of a second.
Sandy Mitchell was slightly closer, just 0.064sec down on Carroll in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3. He’s joined on the second row by Euan Hankey, a great performance from the 7TSix driver to beat the fellow McLaren 720S GT3 of Marcus Clutton by 0.096sec.
WPI Motorsport bounced back from a middling Q1, to take sixth thanks to Phil Keen – 0.021sec up on Jamie Caroline in the second of the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3s.
James Dorlin ensured Redline took a pair of top ten starts with his best time to put the squad eighth, a whisker ahead of Lewis Williamson in the 2 Seas machine, which had a brief spin coming out of the Brittens Chicane – the only real action of note through the entire qualifying session.
Greystone GT rounded out the top ten with Lewis Proctor 0.019sec down on Williamson in the McLaren.
Lap records were also broken in GT4 Pro qualifying, as Darren Turner proved he’s the man to beat as he powered the Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin to the top of the pole with a 1m41.957sec – fourth tenths up on the previous lap record.
It was tightly fought, mind you, as Sennan Fielding was desperately close to scoring a double for Steller Motorsport, as he went just 0.046sec slower in the Audi.
Third went to Will Burns in the #90 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4, just 0.027sec off a spot on the front-row – another sign of just how close and action-packed the two races are going to be on Monday.
Jack Mitchell ensured Toyota took a pair of fourths with his 1m42.497sec in the Supra, while Seb Hopkins had a cracking run in his debut British GT qualifying to take fifth – ahead of fellow 16-year-old Josh Miller in the R Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
Chris Salkeld took seventh in the second Century BMW, while Ross Wylie, Matt Cowley and Assetto Motorsport’s Freddie Tomlinson rounded out the top ten.
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