Jonny Adam and James Cottingham did their chance to scoop the Intelligent Money British GT Championship with a round to spare as they qualified on pole at Brands Hatch.
The pair can win the title a round early for 2 Seas Motorsport, but their title rivals – Darren Leung and Dan Harper – are alongside them on the front-row.
In GT4, it was DTO Motorsport which topped the session as Aston Millar and Josh Rowledge both on the pace throughout the two 1o-minute sessions. Championship leaders Charles Clark and Jack Brown will line up fourth for Optimum Motorsport.
All Adam and Cottingham need to do to avoid sending the GT3 title to a Donington Decider is to extend their points lead from 28 to 37.5 over Leung and Harper and the Mercedes-AMG GT3 racers have made the best possible start to get that done by taking a pretty handy pole position.
It was actually Leung, in the Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT3, who was the early pacesetter but Cottingham knew what he had to do. Jumping down to a 1m25.034sec, the historic racer didn’t let a spin at Surtees discourage him and lowered his best time down to a 1m24.671sec to go half-a-second clear of Leung and give Adam the best possible base to work from as he got into the car for Q2 and times got combined.
That advantage proved to be key, with Harper’s best time 0.152sec better than Adam’s best in what was a scorching hot September afternoon, Cottingham’s Q1 stormer allowed the yellow-and-green machine to still finish top of the pile by roughly three-tenths.
Also in title contention is reigning champ Ian Loggie and the second of the 2 Seas Motorsport entries was on a pretty brisk run through quali. A so-so lap for Loggie was still good enough for Jules Gounon – a man who doesn’t know what slow means – to power the duo up to fifth overall and in a great position to keep the title fight alive all the way to Donington’s finale in October.
Gounon was close, but didn’t quite set the fastest individual lap of the session, that actually went to the car that qualified directly in front of them – Ross Gunn in the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage. Combining with Andrew Howard, the pair were just 0.078sec away from relegating Barwell Motorsport’s Shaun Balfe and Sandy Mitchell from third – the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2 racers having two good sessions.
Sixth is Sky Tempesta Racing. Kevin Tse was right up in the mix in Q1, but as he handed the McLaren 720S GT3 Evo over to Chris Froggatt the pair’s Silver-Am status started to tell as Froggatt couldn’t quite match the Pros but still took class pole.
A deleted lap for exceeding class limits potentially robbed Raffaele Marciello and John Ferguson the chance of moving further up the order, but seventh for the RAM Racing pair is still a decent launchpad for what could be an action-packed 120-minute race on Sunday afternoon.
Optimum Motosport and Paddock Motorsport’s McLaren 720Ss take up places eight and nine, while Barwell’s second Lamborghini of Mark Sansom and Will Tregurtha round out the top 10.
There’s a title to be won this weekend in the GT4 class too, and with Jack Brown and Charles Clark having an advantage of 33 points over Chris Salkeld and Michael Johnston, the pair will be happy with their qualifying position in the Optimum Motorsport McLaren Artura GT4 as they start fourth.
Despite the pair being the team to beat pretty much throughout this season, the pair were rather anonymous during this penultimate qualifying session of the 2023 campaign. Instead, it was the Academy Motorsport Ford Mustangs and DTO Motorsport’s Artura pedalled by Aston Millar and Josh Rowledge who were the real contenders for pole.
In the first session, it was a straight battle between Moore’s #62 Mustang and Millar in the #36 McLaren. Moore struck first, but Millar had a quick Artura and despite a couple of twitchy moments he was really wringing out every bit of performance to finish the opening part of qualifying on top of the pile by 0.240sec.
Come the second session and roles were reversed as Matt Nicoll-Jones grabbed the Mustang by the scruff of the neck and put in a time that was a couple of tenths clear of Rowledge who couldn’t quite match his team-mates pace. So identical were the four drivers times – when you compared each session – pole went the way of DTO by the slenderest of margins, just 0.009sec the advantage come the end of 20 minutes of running.
Third, and confirming the American muscle cars enjoy the Kent circuit, was Erik Evans and Matt Cowley who were just 0.120sec down on combined times and half-a-second clear of the GT4 championship leaders.
Seb Hopkins and Josh Miller will start fifth for R Racing, despite the latter having one of the biggest non-crashes you’ll ever see at Brands Hatch. Powering through Westfield Bend in the team’s Aston Martin Vantage GT4, Miller dipped a wheel on the outside of the corner which sent the car spinning, missing the barriers by about a fraction of an inch.
Despite that, they were a few tenths clear of the battle for sixth and seventh which was so close you couldn’t even blink in the gap between them. Coming out on top was Harry George and Darren Burke in their Enduro Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4, as they set a combined time of 3m04.452sec.
Just behind was championship chasers Salkeld and Johnston, in the Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4, and despite Johnston’s Q1 lap being significantly quicker than George, Burke was too quick and Salkeld couldn’t match him – ending up 0.001sec behind at the flag.
Eighth was the second of the Century M4s with Carl Cavers and Lewis Plato a tenth behind. Two Ginettas rounded out the leading 10, with Toro Verde GT’s James Townsend and Mike Simpson prevailing over Raceway Motorsport’s Thomas Holland and Morgan Short – the latter making his British GT debut after a solid GT Cup season so far in both the National Motorsport Academy Mosler and Topcats Racing’s Lamborghini Super Trofeo.
Sunday’s two-hour race gets underway at 13.30 UK time, and you’ll be able to watch the race live on GT REPORT!
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