Located as we are at the ‘old’ paddock complex on the National Pits Straight, it’s a fairly laid back feel here at Silverstone, the sun greeting the British GT field as it took to the circuit for its first exploratory laps. It wouldn’t be a spring race weekend at Britain’s Home of Motorsport without the threat of rain, but the downpours predicted earlier in the week for tomorrow’s three hour race seem, for now, to be pushing through earlier overnight to hopefully allow drier conditions tomorrow.
Additional entries in the form of the rather splendid looking Team Parker Racing Audi R8 and the familiar spotted livery of the David Ashburn / Trackspeed Porsche 997 have bolstered the GT3 entry to eighteen cars; just one more than the GT4 field, continuing its very healthy attendance.
BMW showed best overall at the end of the first morning Free Practice session, Triple Eight Racing’s Joe Osborne putting down an early marker of 2:03.648 to stay top of the timing screens, the Barwell Motorsport / Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 of Alexander Sims and Marco Attard 0.339 seconds behind, Sims setting the time. Callum Mcleod and Ian Loggie ended their morning third quickest, their fluorescent green and black Audi R8 a refreshing sight and looking fairly comfortable.
The #12 VonRyanRacing McLaren that had left Rockingham in controversial fashion was re-crewed and back in style: gentleman driver Gilles Vannelet exited the 650S after his first stint at the wheel, describing the car as “just perfect.” The car’s best lap of 2:04.309 was fourth quickest in FP1, and an improvement to 2:02.854 was good enough for sixth in FP2 in the hands of team mate and British GT Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, both drivers British GT rookies this weekend.
Mike Simpson put in a single hot lap of 2:02.788 to kick off Free Practice 2, which held the #32 Ginetta GT3 at the top of the timing screens until Rory Butcher found the groove with his Oman Racing Aston Martin, the #6 car some eight tenths quicker at 2:01.964. Phil Keen put the #63 Demon Tweeks liveried Barwell BMW second as the session drew to a close having showed significant improvements as the session progressed. Similarly Richard Lyons, back aboard a Ferrari, deputising for Adam Carroll on Le Mans duty, took the FF Corse 458 Italia steadily up the timing screen to end the session third.
There were only two notable incidents in GT3. The 22GT Aston redeemed a troubled first session having “popped a driveshaft on the upshift into Maggots and Becketts” according to Jon Barnes who was driving at the time; the car made it out again in the closing minutes and then bedded in well over the second session, posting consistent and respectable times as seventh fastest overall.
Further down the pit lane the re-appearance of the Ashburn/ Trackspeed Porsche 997 was fairly brief as it sat out the second session while it had its engine changed. The car had managed only twelfth fastest in GT3 in the first session.
In GT4 there was an exchange early on between Beechdean’s #407 Aston Martin and the #50 Tolman Motorsport Ginetta G55 before Gav Kershaw’s Lotus Evora stuck in a 2:15.143 as the fastest FP1 time. Things were different for FP2 however, the Tolman G55 posting some very solid times to assert itself at the head of the GT4 field with a 2:15.085. The JWB Aston Martin showed well for second, while the Toyota GT86 improved to third quickest at the hands of Stefan Hodgetts.
Matt Nicholl Jones resumed his familiar role as Team Principal / Driver in the #62 Academy Motorsport Aston Martin, which sat out much of the session with fuel pump issues but showed significant improvement to end the second session seventh, just three one thousandths shy of the ‘benchmark’ Beechdean Aston.