Just one thousandth of a second was the difference between first and second in the Intelligent Money British GT Championship’s GT4 class as DTO Motorsport prevailed by the slenderest of slender margins over the Raceway Motorsport Ginetta in the tightest qualifying in championship history.
GT3 proved a more straight-forward affair as an early stormer of a lap in Shaun Balfe’s Am session allowed Sandy Mitchell to sweep in and storm to pole by almost four-tenths in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo 2.
Under blazing sun and the highest track temperatures British GT has enjoyed so far this season, the track action kept with the programme and delivered a hotly-contested qualifying session that was really settled in the first of the two sessions for the GT3 cars. As this is a two-hour race, the times of both drivers are added together to provide an aggregate which is used to set the grid, and it was the first session for the lower graded of the crews to really make their mark.
And make their mark they did. No one seemed too keen to rest on their laurels and with just 10 minutes on the clock, there was no hangijg about either.
Setting the pace early on was Lucky Khera, keeping up Race Lab’s strong running in the McLaren 720S GT3 but he didn’t stay up for long as James Cottingham in the 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 put in a real stormer of a time at the halfway mark to go seven tenths clear of the pack.
But, again, that didn’t keep him first for long as Balfe fired the first warning shot that the Lamborghini – running new brake callipers and pads this weekend as Mark Lemmer told SRO TV – was on for a stormer. Initially logging a 1m25.332sec, his time was bettered by his Barwell team-mate Mark Sansom and then Andrew Howard as the Beechdean Aston Martin continued its quick pace from practice.
That didn’t faze Balfe, who used the last lap of his stint to drop into the 1m24s and give himself a slender advantage over Cottingham who put in a 1m25.081sec to really put the car in a good position when the Pros took over.
With that advantage baked in, Sandy Mitchell must have been rubbing his hands with glee. Taking over the Lamborghini, he didn’t take long to convert the provisional pole to actual pole as he set the second-fastest time of the weekend so far to give the #78 crew a 2m48.618sec on the combined times.
The battle was really who was going to take second, and that proved to be a good fight between Jonny Adam, Ross Gunn and Dan Harper. Gunn was initially the man on the bubble, taking over from Howard in the Vantage, he just dipped into the 1m23s to put himself second.
However, Adam was able to use Cottingham’s Q1 time to give himself a slight advantage and despite his own time being 0.002sec slower than Gunn’s effort, Cottingham’s advantage over Howard allowed the green-and-yellow AMG to go second – 0.096sec clear of the Aston but 0.399sec off the pole time.
Harper was always on the periphery, in the Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 he shares with Darren Leung, but fourth is a solid result for the championship leaders as they look to build on Silverstone success.
Fifth ultimately went to Khera and Euan Hankey in a result they’ll probably be just about happy with – they actually finished sixth in the session, but Alex West has a 10-place penalty for accruing too many behaviour warning points so he and Marvin Kirchhöfer have dropped to 15th.
That promoted Sansom and Will Tregurtha to sixth overall, in addition to the Silver-Am pole they had already secured. Behind, it’s a pair of Mercedes-AMG GT3s as Ian Loggie and Jules Gounon finished 0.0105sec clear of John Ferguson and Raffaele Marciello – the latter mowing the lawn coming out of the Foggarty Esses as he pushed to the very limits.
One car missed out on qualifying – the #50 Drivetac Mercedes-AMG GT3, which was undergoing an engine change.
What a thriller the secondary class proved to be! The battle started in the opening session as Freddie Tomlinson and Josh Rowledge started a back-and-forth scrap in their Raceway Ginetta and DTO McLaren respectively.
The pair were swapping for the top spot on a regular basis but at the end of the first part of qualifying, it was advantage Rowledge as his last lap gave him a 0.082sec advantage to give to Aston Millar in the black-and-white Artura.
With Tomlinson so close, the pair had 0.461sec over the rest of the field – essentially confirming that the pole could only go to one or the other of them unless their co-drivers had a shocker of a session.
Of course, that wasn’t going to happen and as Middleton took over from Tomlinson, he quickly took the challenge to Millar and it was hard to keep track of who exactly was there.
At first, it was advantage Millar with a decent time giving him a slender margin over Middleton, but the latter kept slicing down that gap to such an extent that he was sat just 0.001sec behind – you can’t even blink that quickly.
The next lap, and Middleton was lighting up the timing screens and looked set to snatch away pole but just as he jumped to the top, it was cruelly taken away as he was pinged for a track limits violation that deleted his best lap and dropped him back to second.
That last push took the life out of his tyres and elected to pit, knowing Millar was out of reach and DTO were unstoppable from sweeping to a well-earned pole.
Third, 0.253sec down, was Jack Brown and Charles Clark in the Optimum Motorsport Artura – Clark’s fastest individual lap of the session allowed the orange machine to sneak onto the second row alongside Enduro Motorsport’s Harry George and Darren Burke who were more than three quarters of a second down.
Making it four McLarens in the top five was Ian Gough and Tom Wrigley in the Race Lab entry, taking Pro/Am pole in the process as they pushed Josh Miller and Seb Hopkins to sixth in the R Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
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