James Cottingham claimed pole for the first Intelligent Money British GT Championship race of the weekend, before Marvin Kirchhöfer set the quickest GT3 record ever, as he stormed to pole for the second 60-minute race to continue a good weekend for Garage 69 so far.


Records were broken in GT4 too. Stuart Middleton’s 1m55 flat in the first session looked like an unbeatable totem of a time but in the second session, Charles Clark put in a monster of a lap to easily secure pole for Optimum Motorsport for the second race. 

Race One

With the first sessions for GT3 and GT4 setting the grid for the first race, there was no need to keep track of combined times, or see which second driver might benefit from a rapid opener by their team-mate – only one lap would count and why didn’t Cottingham make it count.

Right from the off, the 2 Seas Motorsport driver was bang on form in his Mercedes-AMG GT3, the bright yellow machine a streak of colour round the Snetterton circuit. 

Putting in a sighter of a 1m47.576sec to get him into the groove, he only need two more laps to set his pole time of 1m47.017sec and secure what turned out to be a comfortable benchmark for Cottingham – benefitting from a turn of pace in three-pointed star that wasn’t entirely expected, those machines not the fastest in the speed traps so far this weekend. 

The scrap proved to be who would end up second, take away Cottingham’s 0.481sec advantage over the rest of the pack, and the group spanning 2nd to 11th were covered by only one-second and watching the timing screens closely reflected that closeness, with drivers jumping up and dropping down at the blink of an eye.

Early in the 10-minute session, it was Mike Price in the Greystone GT Mercedes-AMG GT3 who was on the other side of the front-row but had his lap deleted for track limits. It was the same for Shaun Balfe in the Barwell Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2, who had a quick lap deleted in the early laps. 

That gave Mark Radcliffe – who put in some valuable mileage at the recent GT Cup meeting at Snetterton – the chance to jump onto the front  in the Optimum Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 Evo. However, he lost out in a back-and-forth fight with Balfe, who managed to keep a quick lap late on to slip into second with a 1m47.498sec, Radcliffe was just 0.103sec down and still in a strong position for Sunday’s opening race.

Fourth went to Darren Leung, the BMW M4 GT3 enjoying the fast and medium speed corners, but losing a few hundredths at the slower points of the twisty Snetterton track. Nevertheless, he managed to pip Matt Topham – taking over from Morgan Tillbrook in the Enduro Motorsport McLaren – to the second-row by 0.049sec. 

Kevin Tse had a strong run for Sky Tempesta Racing to get the better of Simon Orange – returning after skipping Donington – by 0.083sec who himself managed to put in a lap good enough to stay ahead of Team Abba Racing’s Richard Neary, the latter taking in his first qualifying with the newly upgraded Mercedes-AMG GT3. 

Barwell’s second entry of Mark Sansom was ninth, whilst Price rounded out the top ten – ahead of Ian Loggie who struggled to 11th, 1.415sec down on Cottingham’s pole time. 

GT4 proved the pace of the Ginetta G56 GT4 isn’t just reserved for the races as Stuart Middleton really put on a showcase of just how much raw pace the newest Ginetta – one of the original marques in GT4 – has in the tank. 

It was his session throughout, the Raceway Motorsport driver put in a 1m55.706sec on his first lap to put himself top and then on his third and final lap he improved by almost seven-tenths to put in a 1m55.040sec and obliterate any sniff of competition from the pack behind. 

That attempt at competition was led by Optimum’s Jack Brown in the McLaren Artura, the championship leader’s lap would have comfortably put him on pole last year but such was the increase in pace this season that he could only get within 0.480sec.

Like GT3, the times behind were pretty tight when you rule out the polesitter. Indeed Aston Millar proved being crashed out of FP1 was no impairment for qualifying as he finished third in the DTO Motorsport Artura – just 0.042sec slower than Brown and promising a thrilling race.

Fourth went to a different manufacturer, as Josh Miller qualified on the second-row for R Racing in the Aston Martin Vantage, only 0.011sec down on Millar but 0.063sec ahead of Zac Meakin in the Team Parker Racing Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS ClubSport.

Pro-Am pole went to Michael Crees who was pushing with all his might in the second of the Raceway Ginettas. Sixth overall, he was the last of the drivers in the 1m55s as Harry George could only set a 1m56.251sec in the Enduro Motorsport Artura. 

Update: Cottingham has been given a five-place grid penalty for contact with Freddie Tomlinson in FP2, so Shaun Balfe starts on pole!

Race Two

The second qualifying session saw the Pros come out to play to set the field for the second one-hour race at Snetterton, and it was hard to keep track of who was ending up where, such was the speed of the improvements.

Somewhat predictably, it was Jules Gounon who put down the early target – suggesting perhaps that the slow time for Loggie was perhaps just how good the Ams are in British GT now – with a 1m45.491sec the time to beat.

And beat it the field did. First up was Kirchhöfer, in the Garage 59 McLaren 720S GT3 Evo, whose time of 1m44.793sec was more than a second faster than the best time set in last year’s trip to Snetterton and looking pretty unbeatable. 

That is, until Ross Gunn started lighting up the timing screens in the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage. Gunn was on a real charge and was improving his time with every lap he logged. With time for just four, you could argue he was cut off in his prime, with another lap in the tank, but the lap he did set was still pretty bloody good. A 1m44.839sec was just 0.046sec slower than the German out front, and indicated what sort of fireworks we can expect come the races.

Gounon was rapid, but couldn’t break himself into the 1m44s as he fell just a touch short – a 1m45.049sec two-tenths behind the lead duo, but two-tenths ahead of AMG factory team-mate Raffaele Marciello who was always threatening the top of the times but couldn’t unlock that final five tenths to challenge for pole. 

Dan Harper took fifth for Century Motorsport, the BMW M4 GT3 racer looking to bank more points in the championship – sitting second and just 8.5 points behind Cottingham and Jonny Adam. His quest will be aided by the fact that Adam could only qualify in seventh, a tenth behind sixth-placed Michael O’Brien – the latter capping a good session for Orange Racing with another starting position solidly within the top 10.

Eighth went to Sandy Mitchell, in the Lamborghini he shares with Shaun Balfe, while Mike Price’s co-driver Callum Macleod stuck the green Greystone Mercedes in ninth. Marcus Clutton rounded out the top ten for Enduro, but was almost relegated off the fifth row by Will Tregurtha – the Barwell driver just 0.001sec slower round the three-mile lap. 

In the secondary GT4 class, new speed records were set in absolutely blitzing fashion. Charles Clark would have heard on the radio and looked at his time on the dash and thought he’d be comfortably on pole in the #90 Optimum Artura as he put in a 1mm55.083sec.

However, he found himself bested by Ginetta factory driver extraordinaire Mike Simpson, who has joined Toro Verde GT for his first British GT race since a one-off back in 2021. Simpson, who supported the development of the G56, has come in to support the team and its development of the car and quickly proved he’s got no rust as he put in simply incredible 1m54.798sec to move onto provisional pole. 

Job done? Not quite. Clark was pushing to the very edge of the track and he was determined to start the second race with no one ahead of him. Setting purple sectors on the timing screen, it was clear he was on for a scorcher of a lap but it was only when he broke the beam at the finish line was the scale of his accomplishment fully revealed. He didn’t just beat Simpson’s time, he blew it out the water – a 1m54.603sec easily the fastest GT4 lap ever at the Norfolk circuit and enough for pole by just-shy of two-tenths. 

Behind, the action was a little calmer and Seb Hopkins can feel unlucky not to put himself into the 1m54s as he fell just short with a 1m55.014sec. Not that he’ll mind, after R Racing DNF’d at Donington, he’ll be happy to be in a good position to bank points alongside Josh Miller. 

The second Toro Verde GT entry of Joe Wheeler will line up in fourth, whilst DTO Motorsport put in another good qualifying performance as Josh Rowledge pipped Darren Burke to fifth by 0.004sec in the black-and-white Artura. 

Freddie Tomlinson couldn’t match Middleton’s heroics, but still qualified their #56 in seventh overall and made it three Ginettas in the lead 10. 

Sunday’s first British GT race gets underway at 11.25am UK (12.25pm CEST), and you’ll be able to watch it live on GT REPORT.


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