Century Motorsport’s Dan Harper, and Beechdean AMR’s Ross Gunn started the 2023 Intelligent Money British GT Championship season by sharing the spoils in the two Free Practice sessions at Oulton Park.
In GT4, times were also shared with Aston Millar initially continuing DTO Motorsport’s strong run in testing on Friday by topping FP1, but Team Parker Racing battled back from a technical gremlin to ensure a different team bested FP2 as Zac Meakin finished first in class.
Free Practice One
The BMW came to the fore early on in the first session of 2023, with Dan Harper setting the first properly competitive times. A couple of laps later and he set what ultimately became the fastest lap of the session with a 1m32.697sec.
There was some disruption before times could continue to be set, with an almost 15-minute red flag period to recover Marcus Clutton’s Enduro Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 Evo and Carl Cavers’ Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4. The pair had a coming together at Shell Oils which was put down to a miscommunication between the pair as Clutton cut his way through traffic.
Once things went live once again, Jules Gounon continued where he left off last year as he powered the 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 to within 0.005sec of Harper’s BMW.
A sign of how close things could be come Qualifying played out in the last 20 minutes of the session as times compressed towards the top. Just missing out on breaking the top two was Sandy Mitchell in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2, who finished just 0.135sec off the top spot.
It was the same story for Marvin Kirchhöfer, who powered the #88 Garage 59 Mclaren to fourth – 0.069sec off Mitchell’s effort. He did squeeze ahead, though, of the second 2 Seas Motorsport entry of James Cottingham and Jonny Adam – the latter setting a time good enough for fifth.
Ross Gunn added another manufacturer to the mix as he finished FP1 sixth in the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage, putting himself ahead of Raffaele Marciello who made a late appearance in the RAM Racing car.
GT4’s top spot was pretty undisturbed, with Aston Millar powering the DTO Motorsport McLaren Artura to the top of the standings just before the first of two red flags as he pushed Freddie Tomlinson’s Raceway Motorsport Ginetta G56 off the top with a 1m41.265sec.
He wasn’t comfortably clear though, as Seb Hopkins – in the R Racing Aston Martin – nibbled down on Millar’s advantage to close to within 0.190sec – a few tenths clear of the Optimum Motorsport Artura in third.
Tomlinson ended the session in fourth, with Tom Rawlings taking fifth – first in Pro/Am – in the Paddock Motorsport McLaren.
There was no chance for any late changes, as the red flag came out with two minutes left on the clock to allow the safe recovery of Andrey Borodin’s Greystone GT McLaren 720S GT3, which went off at Deer Leap.
Free Practice Two
As the sun came out in force, and the track temperature warmed up to just a shade under 30 degrees, it was the ice cream-sponsored team that proved best equipped to top the times as Ross Gunn scooped the competition to finish FP2 on top of the times.
It was hard to keep track of exactly who was in first place, with an early flurry of quick laps and then in the final 10 minutes teams switched to qualifying mode and that led to another tranche of quick laps being logged.
One of the common denominators in both sessions ended up being Team ABBA Racing’s Sam Neary, who traded fast times with Greystone GT’s Callum Macleod early on.
It was advantage Neary for a time, but at the halfway mark Raffaele Marciello showcased his intent for the weekend as he wound up a spell of rapid laps which culminated in a 1m33.749sec.
That was the benchmark until the final 10 minutes, with first Sandy Mitchell knocking almost three-tenths off Marciello’s time and then Ross Gunn powered the Aston Martin a tenth clear of that to end with a 1m33.382sec.
Behind the lead pair, Neary improved his initial effort to go third, leading a chain of four Mercedes-AMG GT3s with Marciello ending fourth alongside John Ferguson, Macleod fifth and the second 2 Seas Motorsport car of James Cottingham and Jonny Adam in sixth.
Optimum Motorsport’s Mark Radcliffe and Rob Bell took seventh, the first of three McLaren 720S GT3 Evos in a row, with Sky Tempesta eighth and Garage 59 in ninth.
Mark Sansom & Will Tregurtha rounded out the top ten, despite the former causing a brief red flag for an off at Druids, which thankfully for Barwell didn’t damage the car.
After an ECU issue ruled them out of FP1, Team Parker Racing bounced back in style with the top spot in GT4 for Zac Meakin and Dan Vaughan.
The Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport racers were pretty much unchallenged at the head of the standings. Moving up to first early on, the pair remained there for the remainder of the session despite ever-changing times behind them.
Improving the most proved to be the RACE LAB McLaren Artura of Ian Gough and Tom Wrigley which leapt up the standings to finish a quarter-of-a-second down in second. They pipped Charles Clark, in the #90 Optimum Artura, by 0.113sec.
Harry George & Harry Nunn took fourth for Enduro Motorsport, whilst Esmee Hawkey and Freddie Wheeler rounded out the top five in their Raceway Motorsport Ginetta.
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