Ross Gunn ensured the attention at the Intelligent Money British GT Championship’s #DoningtonDecider was way from the title fight as he put Beechdean AMR’s Aston Martin Vantage on top of both wet practice sessions.
In GT4, Mike Simpson proved his mastery of his employer’s new GT4 as he powered Toro Verde GT’s Ginetta G56 to the top in both sessions.
There was drama in the secondary class, as championship leaders Optimum Motorsport completed just 10 laps across both sessions as the McLaren Artura needed a full gearbox change.
Free Practice One
Overnight and early morning rain meant the Pirelli wet tyres were put through their paces for the early session with teams and drivers exploring the limits on a damp circuit, something of a slight waste with the forecast for race day being sunshine.
In the opening laps, it proved to be the Mercedes-AMG GT3 runners who put themselves up the front with Philip Ellis – subbing for Jonny Adam in the leading 2 Seas Motorsport car – swapping with Jules Gounon in the sister AMG.
Add in Callum Macleod storming up the order in the Greystone GT entry and Sam Neary buzzing around the outer edges and it seemed as though a Mercedes was the car to be in for the damp conditions.
However, come the halfway mark it was all change as Ross Gunn got behind the wheel of the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and powered into the early 1m35s to put himself head and shoulders clear of the rest. He improved later to a 1m34.811sec to make sure the car he shares with Andrew Howard ended FP1 on top.
Behind, Ellis closed to within a tenth to shoot a shot across the bows of title rivals Century Motorsport, he and James Cottingham ending almost a second ahead of Darren Leung and Dan Harper who finished eighth in their BMW M4 GT3 despite having to sit out a chunk of the session having been black flagged for repeated track limits penalties.
Third was Macleod, with new arrival Jonny Edgar – partnering Miguel Ramos in a Garage 59 McLaren 720S GT3 Evo – fourth and squeaking ahead of the McLaren of Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton.
Richard and Sam Neary took sixth, with Sandy Mitchell claiming seventh on the final lap in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2.
Ninth went to Mark Radcliffe and new team-mate for this weekend Marvin Kirchhöfer, who replaces Rob Bell in the Optimum Motorsport McLaren. They finished 0.032sec ahead of John Ferguson and Raffaele Marciello who rounded out the top ten.
In GT4, Mike Simpson ended four-tenths clear of the competition in the Toro Verde GT Ginetta G56 he shares with James Townsend.
Initially, it was Josh Miller in the R Racing Aston Martin who was on top, but as the track started to form as much of a dry line as the weather would allow this morning, others came to the fore with both Simpson and then Aston Millar – in the DTO Motorsport McLaren Artura pushing the Aston down into third.
Team Parker Racing was fourth, in their Elite Motorsport-liveried Artura, for Dan Vaughan and Zac Meakin a couple of tenths ahead of Joe Wheeler and Ian Duggan’s Toro Verde Ginetta.
New Paddock Motorsport arrival Tom Gamble ensured the team squeezed themselves into sixth – ahead of title chasing Erik Evans and Matt Cowley in the Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang.
The championship leaders didn’t have the best of sessions, as Charles Clark and Jack Brown only finished 10th in the Optimum Motorsport Artura.
Free Practice Two – Pre-Qualifying
With rain continuing to fall, the hope of any dry running prior to tomorrow’s race was a non-starter and if anything the conditions proved to be even damper in lunchtime’s Pre-Qualifying than FP1 first thing in the morning.
Despite the wetter conditions, there was no change in who was massing at the front. In the early running Gunn was proving quick once again in the blue-and-white Aston Martin and was fending off attention from the massed Mercedes-AMGs which were squabbling behind.
Indeed, it proved pretty similar to the morning session, with Macleod, Gounon and Ellis all fighting amongst themselves for who would be able to claim the bragging rights as best of the three-pointed stars.
On a charge fresh from his win at Petit Le Mans last weekend, Gounon was flying in the 2 Seas car and looked like he was going to stay on top, but Gunn was not to be stopped and logged a 1m35.108sec, 0.404sec quicker than Marciello who logged a late flyer in the RAM Racing AMG to go up to second.
A late red flag to let Mark Sansom recover himself from light contact with the barrier at the Old Hairpin disrupted things slightly and cut off any prospect of a late flurry of quick laps.
Gounon and Ian Loggie took third, with Ellis and championship leader James Cottingham behind in fourth.
Despite his off, Sansom and Will Tregurtha still finished fifth in their Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2. Price and Macleod took sixth, a tenth ahead of championship challengers Leung and Harper who were pretty steady but almost a second off the top.
Notable a touch further down the order, the Fox Motorsport Lamborghini of Abbie Eaton & John Seale continued its learning morning, 17th overall and 2.4sec off the top.
Down in the secondary class Mike Simpson demonstrated the Ginetta G56’s prowess in the wet as he once again put Toro Verde GT to the top of the times. In even better work for the squad, Joe Wheeler powered the sister G56 up to second and ahead of Tom Gamble, who had another good session alongside Kavi Jundu in the Paddock Motorsport Artura.
DTO was quick again, 0.074sec ahead of the R Racing Aston Martin and the #61 Academy Ford Mustang.
There was drama for the championship leaders. After only eight laps and a best of 10th in FP1, the Optimum crew elected to change the gearbox of Clark and Brown’s McLaren Artura. Great work by the mechanics allowed them two log a couple of laps in the closing minutes which put them 14th in class and hopeful of a clean run in a crucial qualifying later on.
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