Jules Gounon proved to be a master of all conditions as he set the fastest times in drying and soaking conditions as rain proved to be the order of the day in the two practice sessions for the blue-riband Silverstone 500 – the third race of the 2023 Intelligent Money British GT Championship.
BRITISH GT SILVERSTONE 500: SILVERSTONE ENTRY LIST | FREE PRACTICE REPORT
In GT4, Team Parker Racing was also at the double, with Zac Meakin putting on his water wings to power the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS ClubSport to top in what were tightly contested sessions, throwing qualifying wide open.
Free Practice One
Jules Gounon took advantage of a drying track in the early stages of the opening Practice session to take the top spot in his 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 GT3.
Squalling showers ensured the Silverstone circuit was pretty damp for the start of the early morning practice session, but warm(ish) track temperatures meant that there was a dry line starting to form and with some of the Pro crews electing to take a gamble on slicks there was a decently wide spread of times.
There were plenty of drivers lowering the benchmark, but the first to really stake a claim on the top spot was Gounon, who set a time in the early 2m02s and then improved a lap later to a 2m01.977sec – the only time beneath that 2m02s barrier.
Such was the Frenchman’s speed, the next fastest time was a full nine-tenths behind and that was from the second of the 2 Seas Mercedes-AMG GT3s, with Jonny Adam – no slouch in British GT – down with a 2m02.889sec. He was two-tenths quicker than yet another Mercedes, this the Greystone GT entry of Callum Macleod, alongside Mike Price.
With the drizzle returning just after the halfway mark, times didn’t particularly get threatened after that with crews electing to get some running in on the Pirelli wet tyres with more rain forecast throughout the weekend.
Fourth went to James Kell, the fastest of the McLaren 720S GT3s, with Marvin Kirchhöfer fifth for Garage 59.
In GT4, Bobby Trundley was the pacesetter for most of the session in the Team BRIT McLaren 570S GT4, with Zac Meakin close behind in the Team Parker Racing Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS ClubSport.
But 25 minutes in, Meakin found an extra couple of tenths to leapfrog the McLaren timed just before he was clipped by a spinning Mark Radcliffe, in the Optimum McLaren 720S GT3, who got caught out by wet kerbs at Brooklands. It didn’t damage the Porsche too badly, but did cause some work to be done to the rear-right corner.
Bradley Ellis, returning as a one-off alongside David Holloway this weekend in the Century Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage, took third – slightly ahead of Harry George in the Enduro Motorsport McLaren Artura, which was the only significant issue in Free Practice as the car had a rather spectacular engine failure running through Maggots & Becketts.
Free Practice Two
Gounon made it two top spots from two sessions as he put on a perfect show in much damper conditions to ensure qualifying is set to be finely poised with any number of cars in with a shot if they can master ever-changing conditions which are blowing through Silverstone.
This session proved to be properly wet – rather than the wet-dry-wet mix from FP1 – which meant times were slower, but at least gave teams some consistency and allowed times to improve throughout as drivers got more comfortable in what were pretty similar conditions throughout.
In the early stages, Raffaele Marciello – in the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 – was swapping the top spot with Beechdean AMR’s Ross Gunn before setting a 2m13.932sec to seize the initiative for some time.
It was just after the halfway mark that the times dropped, and that handily coincided with Gounon switching with Loggie and getting behind the wheel of the #1. First, he dropped the benchmark to a 2m13.211sec and then a couple of laps later he improved to 2m12.595sec.
That seemed to fire something up in his factory team-mate Marciello, who improved to a 2m12.817sec to make sure it was another Mercedes sweep at the top of the times.
Behind, Gunn’s efforts put the Aston Martin Vantage third, with Scott Malvern – who was top for a couple of minutes before Gounon got out on track – fourth in the 992-spec Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Two more Mercedes rounded out the top six, with Callum Macleod fifth for Greystone GT and Sam Neary sixth for Team ABBA Racing.
The GT4 field was equally back-and-forth with Zac Meakin eventually prevailing once again for Team Parker Racing. It wasn’t quite simple, with Matt Nicoll-Jones, Seb Hopkins and Stuart Middleton all having brief spells at the top before Meakin powered the Cayman to a 2m22.284sec.
That proved to be 1.691sec quicker than Charles Clark – in the Optimum Motorsport McLaren Artura – who bounced back from disrupted running in Friday testing, after a gearbox replacement led to electrical gremlins.
Hopkins finished third in the R Racing Aston Martin, with the Nicoll-Jones Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang fourth, only 0.032sec clear of Lewis Plato’s Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4.
Qualifying gets underway at 4pm local time.
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