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British GT: Rockingham, GT4 Qualifying Report

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No sooner had the GT3 field finished its qualifying than the ‘Am’ drivers in GT4 were in their cars and queuing at pit exit to begin theirs. However, the two classes would very soon achieve parity in numbers as GT4 lost one of its number in dramatic fashion, as Terry Langley arrived at the Deene hairpin on his first lap only to find his Quantamatic Aston snapping away from under braking. The result was that he clipped the kerbs and rolled twice, fortunately without injury to driver and with less damage to the car than one might reasonably expect from such an incident. Enough, though, to rule out any further involvement in the meeting.

Away from this excitement, Aleksander Schjerpen opened the scoring with a 1:34.889 in the #43 Century Motorsport Ginetta, but Oz Yusuf soon lowered the bar to 1:32.079 in the #77 ISSY Racing Lotus Evora. Richard Williams was second on 1:33.074 in the white and green – and now fully homologated – GPRM Toyota GT86, with David Pattison fourth in the #12 Tolman G55 and Jamie Chadwick fifth in the #407 Beechdean Aston.

Schjerpen lowered his time to 1:33.025 to briefly regain second, before Williams posted a 1:31.466 – just 0.033s off Yusuf’s new best. At this point Will Moore joined in the fun with a third-fastest 1:32.014 in the #61 Academy Aston, while Graham Coomes was fifth in the #49 AmD Porsche. Next time around, the ISSY Lotus extended its lead to 0.783 as the time went down to 1:30.683, and that looked unassailable. It wasn’t.

Chadwick was suddenly in second with a 1:31.337 in the blue and white car, and before anyone could finish telling their neighbour what an amazing time this was from the youngster, she improved to 1:30.520 to take provisional pole.

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Not far behind, Paul McNeilly was enjoying one of his best qualifying performances in the #48 Fox Motorsport Ginetta, rising up the order to fourth on 1:31.532 before being pushed back to fifth at the death by Graham Johnson’s #50 Optimum Ginetta.

It was now time for the ‘Pro’ half of the driver pairings to complete the job and set the grid for Sunday’s two-hour encounter, and Stefan Hodgetts was clearly keen to build on Williams’ good work; the Toyota driver setting a 1:29.864 on his first flier to set a benchmark of 3:01.330, which would only be bettered by one car.

That car was the Beechdean Aston, with Ross Gunn opening his account with a 1:29.864 to take the #407’s aggregate to 3:00.417. He would later shave a further four-tenths off this time, but pole was already in the hands of these remarkable youngsters.

“That was absolutely fantastic, the car was amazing!” enthused Gunn later. “I think I missed the peak of the tyre, but other than that I gave all I had. It was a really good, smooth lap after Jamie had done a fantastic job before me. We have no penalty in the pit stop and a reliable car so fingers crossed for tomorrow!”

Jamie Stanley took the Fox Ginetta to third with a 1:30.909, but despite improving by more than half a second later in the session would be pushed down to fourth by 0.024s after an impressive performance from Dennis Strandberg in the #61 Aston.

“We had a tough first practice session but found a lot of time in qualifying, so we’re really happy with third,” said the Swedish racer. “Anything can happen tomorrow, it’s a long race but we’re extremely positive about the weekend so far.”

Expectations were high that Gavan Kershaw would be challenging for pole, but the challenge never materialised. In fact, Kershaw’s best was half a second slower than Yusuf’s for reasons as yet unknown. The Lotus thus ended up fifth and would be joined on the grid by the points-leading Optimum Ginetta.

Qualifying had again been entertaining and often surprising and another hard-fought race looked to be in the offing. However, rain was forecast for the East Midlands on Sunday, throwing a potential major variable into the mix.

Qualifying Times/Grid >>

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