McLaren 720S GT3s led the way as the Intelligent Money British GT Championship broke its summer slumber with two rousing practice sessions topped by 7TSix and Team Rocket RJN.
GT4 is proving to be an intriguing fight so far this weekend, with a number of brands represented at the sharp-end of proceedings with Steller Motorsport and Academy Motorsport the two teams lighting things up in the early running.
Free Practice One
Euan Hankey topped a disrupted opening practice around the Kent circuit in a session that 26 of its 60 minutes of running after a collision between two Mercedes brought out a lengthy red flag which significantly curtailed running.
With damp conditions on the Grand Prix loop – a rarely used section of the track – times started out on the slower side with the prospect of a lot faster conditions as the day goes on.
Despite the dampness under the trees, Hankey powered his 7TSix McLaren 720S GT3 to the top of the times in the early running with a 1m24.751 to put his car on top.
Callum Macleod – subbing for an injured Jules Gounon in the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 alongside Ian Loggie – came close to upsetting Hankey’s grip on the top as he came to within 0.096sec of the fastest time in the session.
He proved to be the only Mercedes in the top five as Marcus Clutton headed a chain of 720S GT3s in his Enduro Motorsport example, a tenth behind Macleod’s best lap. Jamie Stanley was fourth fastest as he and Nick Halstead look to carry on the wave of momentum that took them to victory last time out at Spa.
Lewis and Stewart Proctor rounded out the top five, one of the last quick laps before the red flag really took the wind out of the field’s sails. That incident was a coming together between Ed McDermott in the Motus One Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 – new to the squad for this weekend – and John Ferguson in the second of the RAM Racing GT3s. Running down Pilgrim’s Drop towards Hawthorn, the pair had a coming together which resulted in significant damage to both cars, and the barriers on one of the fastest parts of the circuit.
When the green flag came back out with just 14 minutes on the clock, the running shifted to allowing Ams to get some vital running – the Grand Prix loop is only used a handful of times per year – but didn’t have chance to set any particularly fast times as Alex Malykhin went for a spin coming out of Graham Hill Bend and beaching himself in the gravel with five minutes remaining. It was covered under yellow flags, but meant no quicker times were set.
In GT4, Sennan Fielding also struck early to put the Steller Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT4 on top of the class times. However, compared to GT3, times kept dropping after the red flag period and he was seriously under threat by Mark Radcliffe in the Valluga Racing Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS ClubSport, who used one of his very last laps to set a 1m33.075 – just 0.029sec off Fielding’s benchmark.
It was a good session for Porsches generally, as Seb Hopkins moved the Team Parker Racing example up to third in class with his penultimate lap, a tenth down on Radcliffe.
Academy Motorsport had topped the running early doors but couldn’t improve as conditions improved and ended fourth overall – a fraction ahead of the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK Supra, which only did seven laps in the session – compared to at least 17 for most of the front-runners.
Free Practice Two
Compared to the disruption of the opening practice session, Free Practice Two proceeded with only one disruption – a live snatch to recover a Ginetta stuck in the gravel at Sheene’s – and that meant times dropped on a regular basis throughout the session, with James Kell ultimately leading the way in the Team Rocket RJN McLaren 720S GT3.
He didn’t lead right from the off, though, as Sam Neary in the Team ABBA Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 went fastest initially before he was pipped by Scott Malvern in the Team Parker Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R with a 1m24.947.
His time lasted for a chunk of the session, as teams put their Ams in the car to get some running in the books ahead of tomorrow’s two-hour race, it was with less than 20 minutes remaining that Kell made his move.
Taking over from Simon Watts, Kell set the fastest time of the day so far with a 1m24.084 to power from the lower reaches of the GT3 field right to the very top.
With the track consistently improving throughout the times behind the McLaren dropped rapidly, but no one could dig as deep as Kell, with Lewis Williamson the closest challenger in his 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3, 0.212sec down on the fastest time of the day.
Neary improved his time too, a 1m24.342 the end result of a string of personal best laps in the final 10 minutes but only just held onto third as Sandy Mitchell ended the session just 0.021sec behind in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo.
Fifth went to FP1 pacesetter Euan Hankey, while Malvern eventually finished the session sixth – alongside team-mate Nick Jones – after a late flying lap to move up.
GT4 went the way of Academy Motorsport, with Matt Cowley the man to beat throughout the session as he kept reaching faster and faster times to ultimately put the Mustang 15th overall with a time of 1.31.848 – a couple of tenths clear of the Valluga Porsche which was fast once again, this time in the hands of Benji Hetherington.
The Aston Martins pushed their way forward in the second session too, with Josh Miller’s R Racing Vantage finishing in third, ahead of the Newbridge Motorsport entry of Matt Topham and Darren Turner.
Assetto Motorsport ensured a bit of variety in the top five, with Joe Wheeler and Freddie Tomlinson getting into the groove of things, moving up from last in first practice to fifth in this, in their Ginetta G56 GT4.
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