Raffaele Marciello continued his good form at the Intelligent Money British GT Championship’s first trip to Portimao as he topped both Saturday practice sessions to add to being the pace-setter in Friday’s tests on-board the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 as he out-paced Barwell Motorsport’s Sandy Mitchell both times.
Seb Hopkins and Josh Miller both proved themselves equally quick behind the wheel of the R Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 as they both put in the fastest times in each session to top the secondary class quite comfortably ahead of the DTO Motorsport McLaren Artura GT4 in both hour-long sessions.
Free Practice One
British GT’s first trip to Portugal started off in a relatively calm manner, with teams electing to focus on long-runs and race prep rather than try and strip the paint off the cars putting in qualifying practice but there was still some mischief to be had.
That’s mainly exploring track limits. With Portimao a new circuit for a good chunk of the field, it was a question of finding exactly where the limit was and how much liberty they could take before the warnings started flashing up from race control. The real masters at that proved to be the #36 DTO Motorsport McLaren Artura GT4 and the Sky Tempesta Racing #93 McLaren 720S GT3 of Kevin Tse and Chris Froggatt, clocking up 10 and 12 warnings respectively despite both having to serve a five-minute stop/go penalty and the former missing the last 22 minutes of the session having broken down on track and causing a 10-minute red flag.
There was no such trouble at the sharp-end of the field, or not as much as some others in any case, as Raffaele Marciello continued his impressive form from Friday’s test sessions to put in the fastest time of the first official practice session within the first 10 minutes – a 1m41.581sec proving unbeatable for the RAM Racing driver.
A sign that things could be relatively close come qualifying came in the fact that the top eight were all covered by under a second with Sandy Mitchell closest to the Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver as put in a time just 0.277sec slower in his Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2.
The Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 of Darren Leung and Dan Harper proved to be a strong package once again, a 1m42.042sec squeaking the Bavarian machine ahead of reigning champion Ian Loggie in the #1 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 who is joined this weekend by Phil Keen as regular team-mate Jules Gounon competes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Lime Rock Park.
Will Tregurtha left it until his penultimate lap of the session to move up to fifth, in the second of the Barwell entries, just edging the Garage 59 entry down to sixth. That McLaren 720S GT3 also has an adjusted driver line up this weekend with Marvin Kirchhöfer joined by Miguel Ramos in place of Alex West.
Speaking of new team-mates, Nicki Thiim has made his long-awaited return to British GT and finished FP1 in seventh alongside Andrew Howard in the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin. He’s replacing Ross Gunn this weekend who, like Gounon, is sampling the delights of Lime Rock Park.
Jonny Adam rounded out the top eight, 0.970sec down in the 2 Seas entry he shared with James Cottingham.
In GT4, things were pretty steady at the top with Seb Hopkins putting in a quick time early in the R Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 to be more than half-a-second clear of Aston Millar in the above mentioned DTO Motorsport entry.
Things were tighter behind, with the next five cars covered by just three-tenths. That was headed by the Toro Verde GT Ginetta G56 of James Townsend and Mike Simpson, the latter setting a great effort which was just 0.062sec down on the black-and-white Artura in second and only 0.077sec ahead of Team Parker Racing’s Dan Vaughan and Zac Meakin who have swapped into an Elite Motorsport-liveried McLaren Artura for this weekend, after ongoing issues with the team’s regular Porsche Cayman.
Optimum Motorsport’s duo of Charles Clark and Jack Brown were next, with Carl Cavers and Lewis Plato’s Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 adding another marque to the mix. Stuart Middleton and Freddie Tomlinson also added themselves onto that train at the top, just nine-tenths down on the best lap of the session in their Raceway Motorsport Ginetta.
FP2 – Pre-Qualifying
While the timing screens were still flashing up track limits penalties faster than a bingo caller, shout out to Enduro Motorsport for clocking up seven as Matt Topham and Marcus Clutton get to grips with their new Aston Martin Vantage GT3, things were a bit more settled in Pre-Qualifying as the track hotted up to 42C and two red flags disrupted proceedings.
Early on, it was Mitchell setting the pace in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini, a 1m41.924sec not quite as fast as Marciello’s benchmark from the morning’s Practice but looking pretty solid at the top as teams looked to maximise running for their Ams rather than having a slog-fest between the Pros.
That was in the first 10 minutes of the session, as was the fastest time in GT4 – Josh Miller’s 1m51.956sec – with the R Racing driver finding that it’s not just co-driver Hopkins who has a comfortable handle on the Aston Martin around the sweeping Algarve circuit, again besting the DTO Motorsport McLaren pairing of Josh Rowledge and Aston Millar who are keeping close but unable to put in a truly fast lap.
With things ticking by, the first action came as something of a wake-up call as a brief red flag was called for to recover James Wallis’ Drivetac Mercedes-AMG GT3 from the gravel as he looked to continue pushing the limits where he could.
Underway again, and the biggest change in the order came from Marciello. Having let team-mate John Ferguson do the bulk of the running, the Swiss racer jumped back in for the final 15 minutes to get his eye in ahead of Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session. Lowering his own benchmark every time round, he eventually put himself back onto the top with a 1m41.785sec – taking 0.107sec off Mitchell’s best.
Also moving was Phil Keen, who powered the 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG he’s sharing with Ian Loggie up to third but 0.433sec down on Mitchell – 0.051sec ahead of the sister 2 Seas entry as Jonny Adam put in a 1m42.376sec.
Fifth was Howard and Thiim in the Beechdean Aston, a hair’s breadth ahead of Dan Harper in the Century BMW, the Northern Irishman just 0.006sec slower than Thiim as he ended the session the last within a second of the fastest time.
Times looked like they were going to improve still, but the last seven minutes of the session were lost due to a final red flag due to cars needing to be recovered at both the first corner and Turn 15 – one of which was a minor fire for Andrey Borodin’s Greystone GT McLaren 720S GT3.
In GT4, things once again proved tight – if you excluded Hopkins and Miller. Behind Rowledge, who was the other driver that caused that final stoppage, Jack Brown was just 0.029sec behind in the Optimum Artura and a solid indicator that Sunday’s three-hour battle is going to be spectacular in the secondary class.
That’s highlighted even further by Freddie Tomlinson going 0.111sec slower than Brown in the Raceway Ginetta and Lewis Plato being once-again fastest of the Pro-Am cars in the #22 BMW M4 GT4 – 0.037sec down.
Qualifying gets underway at 14.45 local time (same time in the UK, 15.45 CEST). You can watch it live on GT REPORT here!
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