Mercedes-AMGs led the way as the Intelligent Money British GT Championship burst into life at a surprisingly warm and sunny Oulton Park, with RAM Racing and Team ABBA Racing topping the two 60-minute sessions.
GT4 honours were also shared, as the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK team moved up from second in the first session topped by R Racing’s pair of youngsters, to go comfortably fastest in FP2.
Free Practice One
RAM Racing took a comfortable one-two in the opening practice session of 2022, with Jamie Caroline’s third lap of the 60-minute session proving comfortable enough to not be beaten. His 1m33.129sec was more than 1.5sec clear of the race lap record set back in 2017, suggesting that the new Pirelli tyres for this season could lead to some of the fastest times British GT has seen in years.
The pressure for the top spot, if you want to call it pressure, came relatively late in the session when Ian Loggie handed over the #6 to Jules Gounon. The Frenchman lit up the timing screens and was on a decent charge, but fell just 0.176sec short.
Gounon’s efforts knocked Enduro Motorsport down into third, Marcus Clutton on the pace from the off in the McLaren 720S GT3 having squeezed the orange and blue machine ahead of Scott Malvern in the early running.
Malvern finished the session fourth in the Team Parker Racing Porsche, while James Cottingham added another Mercedes-AMG GT3 into the top five with a swift start to the session alongside Lewis Williamson in the 2 Seas Motorsport entry.
Sandy Mitchell overcame a slightly delayed start to the session to put the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 in sixth. Angus Fender logged more miles in the Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 to go seventh.
The first driver just outside that one-second deficit to the leader was Sam Neary, who’s best effort was 1.006sec down on Caroline’s benchmark – suggesting the times come qualifying later on could be spectacularly close.
Balfe Motorsport gave the Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 a solid enough competitive debut, Adam Carroll setting the ninth fastest time, just ahead of Euan Hankey in the 7TSix McLaren 720S GT3.
GT4 proved to be slightly more changeable as R Racing eventually finished top of the category, as Josh Miller powered the Aston Martin Vantage just a tenth ahead of Jack Mitchell in the Toyota Supra.
For a time, it was Mitchell who was ahead as the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK team showed it had the pace to mix it at the front as Mitchell traded fast times with reigning GT4 champion Will Burns, who is remaining with Century Motorsport for this season.
Mitchell finished the session third, alongside Tom Edgar, as he lost his second spot relatively late on by Sennan Fielding in the Steller Motorsport Audi R8 LMS.
Team Parker Racing took fourth as Seb Hopkins and Jamie Orton combined to good effect in the new Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport, edging out Darren Turner in the fastest Pro-Am entry – the Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin.
Free Practice Two
In a rare occurrence for England in Spring, the sunshine that graced Oulton Park during FP1, continued into FP2 and actually warmed the circuit – an even rarer occurrence.
That meant the times for this afternoon were a touch slower than in the early morning practice, but it still meant a Mercedes topped the times. Not one of the new versions though, the pre-Evo AMG of Team Abba Racing and Sam Neary, the GT Cup champion setting a 1m34.020sec in the green and black machine.
His fastest lap, with just under 20 minutes of practice remaining, unseated Shaun Balfe in his Audi R8 LMS who has been rapid throughout the session as he quickly settles into the new car.
Such was his comfort, that his time to top the session early on was faster than Jules Gounon’s early benchmark in the RAM Racing Mercedes he’s sharing with Ian Loggie. He finished the session in third.
Fourth went the way of Barwell’s sole Lamborghini, with Sandy Mitchell just 0.216sec off Gounon’s time and about the same margin ahead of James Kell, who is sharing the Team Rocket RJN McLaren with Graham Davidson for this weekend, after Simon Watts tested positive for COVID in the lead up to the first round.
2 Seas Motorsport put in another good session, with Williamson and Cottingham sixth in their Mercedes – 0.030sec ahead of Jamie Caroline in the second RAM Racing entry.
Eighth went to WPI Motorsport, after a much-needed session of faultless running after a late start to FP1, while Redline Racing and 7TSix rounded out the top ten.
After finishing second in the first practice, Tom Edgar ensured Toyota Gazoo Racing UK went one better in the afternoon session as he powered the Supra to the top of GT4 with an early stormer of a lap.
That said, he was lucky his 1m34.307sec remained the time to beat. Ross Wylie, in the Valluga Racing Porsche, turned up the speed right at the end of the session and looked set to pip Edgar to first but fell just 0.012sec short.
Sennan Fielding powered the Steller Audi up to third in a disrupted session where they completed just 11 laps – compared to the 28 of the Toyota squad. They at least finished the session, bad luck hit the Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang and stranded Matt Cowley out on track on his outlap. His running before the stoppage was good enough for a fourth-placed finish at the end.
Team Parker once again put in a top five performance for Jamie Orton and Seb Hopkins, while Pro-Am bragging rights again went to Darren Turner and Matt Topham in the Newbridge Vantage.
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