2 Seas Motorsport’s James Cottingham and Lewis Williamson stormed to an impressive pole position for the Intelligent Money British GT Championship’s two-hour race at Brands Hatch, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 pair almost half-a-second clear of the chasing pack in a thrilling qualifying session.
Sennan Fielding proved he’s the man to beat when time is running out as he used his last lap of GT4 qualifying to snatch pole position for Steller Motorsport in the Audi R8 LMS he shares with Richard Williams.
Qualifying in the main category proved to be a stormer from the word go, with the Ams – in the opening session – trading fastest times with every tour of the circuit, to the extent that Cottingham’s fastest lap was only really confirmed within the closing minutes of the quick-fire 10-minute qualifying stint.
That said, he was always on the pace as he put in the first really fast lap in the 1m24s, it was everyone else squabbling for who would join him on the front-row – before the Pro times get added on.
It eventually went the way of Morgan Tillbrook in the Enduro Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3, after back-and-forth with Ian Loggie, Adam Balon and Alex Malykhin with each driver finding more confidence, and thus pace, with every circuit of Brands Hatch. There could have been more late changes, but for the first of two red flags in the session to recover Andrey Borodin’s Greystone GT McLaren – he appeared to just spin off the kerb coming out of Graham Hill Bend and he clouted the barriers on driver’s left coming out of the corner.
With Am times set, it was up to the Pros to confirm where they’d definitely start and Lewis Williamson was not messing about. He set one of the fastest laps of the day – a 1m22.982 – to put the bright yellow Mercedes-AMG onto pole by what turned out to be a massive margin of 0.396sec.
Second went the way of Enduro, with Marcus Clutton showing the same levels of speed which has marked the McLaren squad out as one of the fastest all season. There was a potential he could have pipped Williamson to the top spot, but a nervy moment heading through Sheene’s denied him a chance – closing in on RAM Racing’s Callum Macleod, the latter slowed to give Clutton space but was on the left-hand side of the road, directly on the line Clutton wanted to take. A heavy stamp on the brakes and some quick hands allowed Clutton to avoid a collision but destroyed his lap.
A mega lap from James Dorlin powered Redline Racing’s Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo to third overall, just seven-hundredths of a second ahead of the similar Lamborghini of Barwell Motorsport’s Balon and Sandy Mitchell – the latter on a real charge but not able to quite get higher up the order.
Importantly, though, all four are in outside championship contention with just two races remaining and championship leader Loggie couldn’t qualifier higher than fifth alongside Callum Macleod in their Mercedes-AMG GT3. That’s not through putting in a real effort mind you, but both were just slightly shy of the leading pace in both sessions to be 1.1sec down on the combined times overall.
Sixth went to Sam and Richard Neary in their Team ABBA Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 – the previous generation compared to the car ahead of them on the grid – with Century Motorsport recording what has to be easily its best qualifying position of the year as Henry Dawes and 2015 British GT Championship runner-up Alexander Sims combined superbly to put the BMW M4 GT3 seventh on the grid – a great result for Dawes on his GT3 debut.
Despite topping practice early on 7TSix could only qualify eighth, the head of a chain of three McLaren 720S GT3s, with Paddock Motorsport and Fox Motorsport rounding out the top ten – the latter squad repairing the car’s damage Turbo between FP2 and qualifying.
Pole position in GT4 was settled on pretty much the final lap of the session as a captivating contest for the top spot came down the very wire, with Sennan Fielding’s late flyer just clinching it for Steller Motorsport.
Indeed, they didn’t particularly figure in the early running with Richard Williams not quite able to match the pace of his fellow Silvers in the first session which was dominated by R Racing’s Jamie Day and Assetto Motorsport’s Freddie Tomlinson.
It was the latter who struck first, in his Ginetta G56 GT4, with a 1m31.550, a lap or so later he looked to have shaved a few tenths off his best time but was it was quickly deleted for a track limits violation. That opened the door for Day’s Aston Martin Vantage to sneak through to the top with a 1m31.441, which would only have been good enough for second if Tomlinson’s time had stood.
Also in the mix after a good session was Tom Edgar in the Speedworks-run Toyota Gazoo Racing UK GR Supra, who was a fraction behind in third, with Williams in fourth in the Silver-painted R8 LMS.
Come the second part of GT4 qualifying and we had another red flag just seconds after Josh Miller provisionally moved up to pole for R Racing. Chris Salkeld appeared to have lost it coming out of Stirlings and hit the barriers part of the way down Clearways and needed to be recovered – his BMW M4 GT4 having suspension damage on the front and right rear corners.
When the action got going again, the biggest mover proved to be Fielding who always seems to find his best laps when the cards are down and the clock is nearing zero. Indeed, it was his final lap of the session that shot him up to first – a combined time of 3m03.104 a tenth clear of Day and Miller’s Aston Martin and hopefully a sign of a more positive race ahead after a few rounds of tricky running for the Audi team.
Third went to the Toyota squad, with Collard’s best lap putting the Supra only half-a-tenth down on combined times. They were more than three-tenths clear of Team Parker Racing’s Seb Hopkins and Jamie Orton who converted their Free Practice pace into a good starting position for Sunday’s two-hour race.
After starting strong, both Academy Motorsport and Assetto Motorsport faded after the red flag delay, with the Mustang lining up fifth 0.012sec ahead of the Ginetta.
Newbridge Motorsport claimed Pro-Am pole, as Matt Topham lamented his relative lack of lap time compared to the Silver Cup crews on the British GT livestream after the session. He and Darren Turner will line up seventh overall in their Newbridge Motorsport-prepared Aston Martin Vantage.
Sunday’s two-hour race gets underway at 1.30pm UK time (2.30pm CEST) and is live on GT REPORT.
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