2 Seas Motorsport took a pair of pole positions in a thrilling Intelligent Money British GT Championship qualifying session at Oulton Park, with the front rows for both races not settled until the closing seconds.
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Jack Brown put in a lap for the ages to secure pole for the first race by more than 0.3sec in GT4 for Optimum Motorsport. If that was the shot, team-mate Charles Clark’s lap was the chaser as he powered to an unbelievable 1m39.719sec to make sure the McLaren squad took a double pole.
With the Ams setting the grid for race one, and the Pros setting race two’s starting order, we’ve covered them race-by-race below.
James Cottingham pulled out a stunning lap in his Mercedes-AMG GT3 to take a mathematically pleasing pole position, with a 1m34.000sec enough to put himself on the front of the grid.
He didn’t dominate the session, though. Initially, it was Enduro Motorsport’s Morgan Tillbrook who set the pace with a 1m34.726sec.
However, as the drivers properly got their eyes in, and got the tyres up to temperature, the times started to drop down. About halfway through the session, Cottingham moved up to provisional pole with a 1m34.466sec just a fraction ahead of Richard Neary’s Team ABBA Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Cottingham’s next lap proved to be his decisive time, which meant the focus shifted to who would end up joining him on the front row.
The obvious contender was Ian Loggie. The reigning champion was on superlative form and his 1m34.316sec wasn’t quite on the pace of his 2 Seas team-mate but still looked solid enough to take second.
But, slightly down the timing screens Sky Tempesta Racing’s Kevin Tse was putting together one hell of a lap. Green through the sectors, it looked like he was going to be very close to the pole-sitting time.
As he crossed the line, his time appeared and it was less than a blink of an eye down on Cottingham’s effort – a 1m34.030sec – but put last year’s podium finisher on for another strong weekend.
Loggie ended the session in third, a solid position to start his title defence, and he’s joined on the second row by old sparring partner Richard Neary.
Fifth went to Tillbrook, with Andrew Howard sixth in the Beechdean Aston Martin Vantage. Shaun Balfe finished his first qualifying session for Barwell Motorsport in seventh – just 0.012sec ahead of Century Motorsport’s Darren Leung, who had a great session in the BMW M4 GT3.
In GT4, Jack Brown’s early lap in the Optimum McLaren Artura was a shot across the bows for the rest of the category.
On his first quick lap, he clocked a 1m40.650sec – easily beating last year’s pole position time and putting himself well clear of the rest of the field.
The closest anyone got to even trying to upset the balance was Aston Millar in the DTO Motorsport McLaren, but even that was still 0.314sec down on Brown’s benchmark as the Optimum racer proved too good to beat.
Zac Meakin continued Team Parker Racing’s recovery from missing FP1 to set the third fastest time, 1.239sec off the pole and almost a full second down on Millar’s benchmark. Ian Gough joins him on the second row in the RACE LAB McLaren, with the first non-McLaren ending up being Freddie Tomlinson in the #56 Raceway Motorsport Ginetta G56 GT4.
After the session, Brown told GT REPORT: “It was a good qualifying. In my session I knew it would be relatively comfortable, I was just worried about the other McLaren. I thought the other session would have been more competitive.
“We’ve had the car dialled in all weekend, and we’ve been able to get the tyre working really well. The races on Monday are going to be wet, and we’re comfortable in that so bring them on.”
Jules Gounon proved why he’s one of the most successful GT3 drivers of his generation as he put in a stormer of a lap to take pole position by more than a quarter of a second.
Oddly, considering the pace of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 racer, he probably wasn’t the absolute favourite going into the crunch time. Going out a lap later than the competition meant one less lap to set a fast time, but when you’re Jules Gounon, you don’t need that many laps.
It did, though, give some other teams hope that they’d carry on their own strong pace, That was mainly Dan Harper in the Century Motorsport BMW. His time of a 1m31.991sec was the fastest of the weekend by a good margin and seemed to be more than enough to take the car’s first pole in British GT.
But Gounon was on a charge, at a circuit he told GT REPORT he loved when he debuted in the championship, and purple sectors started to appear on the timing screens as he wound up the D2-liveried machine to its absolute maximum.
On course to set a great time, the only question was how good it was going to be. It ended up being a beast. A 1m31.713sec easily relegated Harper down to second, and secured pole for Monday’s second race – which will be started by the Pros.
Third went to Raffaele Marciello, who had the wind taken out of his sails somewhat by his fellow Mercedes factory driver, but proved a good turn around for RAM Racing which has had a bit of a middling event so far by its high standards.
Marvin Kirchhöfer proved to be the fastest of the McLaren 720S runners, just 0.034sec down on Marciello but only 0.073sec faster than Ross Gunn, who had a good session in the Beechdean Aston.
There was no time for drivers to set any improved times as Marcus Clutton caused a red flag with under a minute to go with a high-speed off at the Shell Oils Hairpin. The speed of his off suggested mechanical failure rather than driver error, but wasn’t what the Enduro Motorsport driver needed when trying to improve from what will be an 11th-place start.
Jack Brown said he thought GT4’s second session was going to be more competitive than his opening session, that proved to be misguided – not that he could know just how comfortable it would be.
That’s because his team-mate Charles Clark put in a time that was absolutely astounding. Times were slowly building as each driver crossed the line, but Clark looked like he was on for something remarkable. Sector after sector his times were baffling, surely he couldn’t be going that quick? Crossing the final timing line the proof was there, he was going that quick and the timing screen proved it – a 1m39.719sec.
It wasn’t just quick, it was on another level entirely – 2.2sec clear of Darren Turner’s fastest qualifying time in 2022, Clark was a full second clear of the pack behind.
That pack was headed by RACE LAB’s Tom Wrigley, the fellow McLaren Artura racer clocked a 1m40.721sec, which would have been a comfortable pole time any other weekend before Optimum burnt up the expected form guide.
Third, eight-tenths down on Wrigley, was Tom Rawlings in the Paddock Motorsport Artura who was only 0.069sec clear of Esmee Hawkey – a cracking result for the Toro Verde GT driver, considering she’s barely tested the Ginetta G56.
Fifth went to the Raceway Ginetta of Stuart Middleton, while Seb Hopkins added some variety to the top end of the grid in the R Racing Aston Martin Vantage.
The first race of the weekend takes place on Monday, at 10.55am UK time (11.55am CEST), with the race live on GT REPORT.
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