The first track time for the 2018 British GT season saw all the cars present (the full championship entry less the Richardson Racing GT4 Mercedes) take to a damp Oulton Park in very cold temperatures of only 5 degrees.
The track was wet but drying throughout and gave the teams a chance to check the balance of their cars in a mix of conditions.
It was only in the last 20 minutes or so, when most of the teams changed to slick tyres, that the times became meaningful, albeit #33’s Phil Keen and #56’s Joe Osborne remained largely unchallenged at the top of their respective classes in the wettest conditions at the outset.
The #44 Invictus Jaguar also looked strong in the difficult conditions, occupying top spot for a time around the middle of the session, which was an impressive start for this all-new outfit.
The ERC Sport Mercedes was also consistently putting in good times. The timing screen never changed from displaying Lee Mowle’s name, but the chances are that Yelmer Buurman was responsible for its 1:35.579 on slicks at the end, the second-quickest time this morning.
Optimum Motorsport’ Jonny Adam ultimately went fastest, with a 1:35.321, happy with “quite a lot of overnight changes that have made the car feel really good. This weekend is going to be all weather-dependent, Monday certainly looks like being grim!”
Keen, one of the first to change to slicks in the #33 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini. was third quickest with a 1:35.636.
The first four places then were all different marques: Aston Martin from Mercedes, Lamborghini and McLaren, the latter coming good at the end of the session with an effort from Rob Bell. The RJN Nissan was ninth-quickest with a 1:39.827 and the two Bentleys were down in 11th and 12th overall, albeit they did not switch to slicks. Rick Parfitt Jnr said: “there was no point, it was still so wet off line, so we just concentrated on getting a good setup for changeable conditions.”
Nor did the #2 Barwell Lamborghini venture out on slicks. The team, having replaced several components overnight, found there were a few glitches to iron out in the first half of the session but they’re confident that these are now sorted. Watch this space for news on Kujala’s pace in the next practice session then.
In GT4, it was Jesse Antilla’s Nissan that was first to depose Osborne’s McLaren, but then Graham Johnson took top spot with the first GT4 lap under a 1:52.
The first slick time in GT4 was nearly seven seconds faster than that, though, Finlay Hutchinson at the wheel of the Equipe Verschuur McLaren. He fell to third as Michael Broadhurst was ultimately fastest in class in the #77 Fox Motorsport Mercedes (above), with Matthieson second on a 1:44.723 in the HHC Ginetta.
Just behind the quickest trio was a happy Ben Tuck in the debuting BMW M4. “We’ve done really well given the lack of time in the car (we only did the media day) and the changeable conditions,” he said.
A minor bump between Jon Minshaw in the #33 Lamborghini into the back of Derek Johnston’s Aston Martin was seemingly the only incident on a very busy-looking track, necessitating some work on the oil cooler on the latter car. The only car to put in less than 10 laps was the #68 Toyota GT86, the team reluctant to disclose the reason, but saying that all would be well for FP2 at 12:30.
Several warnings were given for not respecting track limits at T1 (Old Hall) but anyone who knows Oulton Park in the wet will know that those transgressions were unlikely to be deliberate!