Barwell take the GT3 top spot
The #23 Nissan of Devon Modell and #11 Aston Martin of Mark Farmer lined up at pit exit well ahead of the session start, banking on the advantage of a clear track instead of just-warmed tyres for setting their time. Once the pitlane opened and the remainder of the field headed out, there were some early spinners on cold tyres, including the aforementioned Farmer, Derek Johnston (#17 TF Sport Aston) and Jon Minshaw (#33 Barwell Lamborghini). They all got going again, but here was a bigger incident for Lee Mowle in the ERC Mercedes, who lost the car going through the final corner and came to rest on the grass on the inside of the turn.
The crash was covered by local yellows and the rest of the field continued circulating, with Flick Haigh posting an initial best of 1:36.852 in the #75 Optimum Aston, ahead of Farmer, Modell, Sam de Haan in the #69 Barwell Lamborghini, Shaun Balfe in the #101 Balfe McLaren, Ian Loggie in the #7 Team Parker Bentley and Graham Davidson in the #47 Jetstream Aston.
Minshaw then went fastest, and Farmer also beat Haigh’s marker, but the latter fought back with a 1:34.227. Minshaw had some more in the tank, though, recording a 1:33.828 next time around. That left Haigh second, Farmer third and Modell fourth, but there were more improvements to come: Haigh managed a fastest-overall first sector on her way to a 1:32.844 as quickest of the Am drivers ahead of Minshaw. Modell also made a late improvement to move up to third, ahead of Farmer, de Haan, Balfe, Loggie, Andrew Howard (#99 Beechdean Aston), Davidson, Rick Parfitt Jr in the #1 Bentley and Johnston.
The cars were passed to the Pro drivers for the second part of GT3 qualifying, and after the first round of laps, Nicki Thiim had put the #11 Aston he shares with Farmer at the top of the screens. Johnny Adam then added his effort to Haigh’s to put the #75 Aston second, just after Phil Keen had put the #33 Lamborghini into P1. A second quick lap from Keen further secured the car’s position, extending the combined-times gap to Haigh and Adam’s car to 1.5 seconds. Adam then brought it back down to 0.6 seconds on his next tour, but Keen saved the best for last: a 1:29.235 to confirm a comfortable pole position for himself and Minshaw right at the end.
“If it is wet tomorrow we may have a chance but if it is dry,” Minshaw told DSC, “we will be lucky to be in the top six with our 20 second penalty.”
Keen added: “I agree with Jon, if it is dry we will just have to salvage what we can and get the points.”
Jonny Adam “We have totally improved the car during today. The Lamborghini works so well in this window, low grip, slow speed corners and the wet, no-one got close. Flick did a great job though and if is dry tomorrow we are in a good place. We’ve done some pre-season testing in the dry here and we have no pitstop penalty for our race.”
Thiim and Farmer held on to third and they’ll be joined on the second row for Sunday’s race by Johnny Cocker and de Haan in the #69 Lamborghini. The third row will be made up of the Devon Modell/Struan Moore Nissan GT-R and Rob Bell/Shaun Balfe McLaren, ahead of the #7 Bentley of Loggie and Macleod and the #99 Aston of Turner and Howard in seventh and eight. Rounding out the top 10 are the #17 TF Sport Aston (Sorensen/Johnston) and #1 Bentley (Parfitt/Ratcliffe).
Yelmer Buurman did manage to get out in the ERC Mercedes damaged by Mowle in the first part of the GT3 session, and although he skated through the gravel at Tarzan at one point, he still managed to record the second-quickest time of the Pro contingent. With no corresponding time from Mowle, however, the #116 car will start at the back of the GT3 field on Sunday.
Tolman top two in Am translates to top two on the grid in GT4
Conditions were probably the driest of the day for qualifying but were still tricky, as immediately evidenced when the #86 Toyota of Alex Quinn span harmlessly at Tarzan on his out lap. There was then a red flag caused by David Pattinson having an off at the exit of Gracelands. The McLaren was recovered back to the pits under its own power and Pattinson brought it back up against the wall for a check over.
With the session resumed, it was in effect a 7:30 session, with all the cars now on cold tyres.
Matthiesen made himself plenty of space at the front of the field and exploited it with a 1:39.275 opener, but Fagg (#4) and Green (#42) were into the 1:37s and 1:38s respectively whilst Proctor in the #5 McLaren matched Matthiesen’s time exactly.
On his second quick lap Matthiesen went top with a 1:37.922 but Green and Fagg then overtook him with a 1:36.839 and 1:36.942 respectively. Alex Quinn then went fourth with a 1:38.615, impressive stuff from the little Toyota, albeit Balon then took the position off him just before the chequered flag with a 1:38.401.
Fagg leapt ahead to set what was to be the fastest time in the session on his penultimate lap with a 1:35.584 and Proctor welcomed the #5 McLaren to the correct end of the timing screen to take second in the session with a 1:36.798. Matthiesen firmed his time up with a 1:37.686 but that wasn’t enough to move him up.
The session ended #4, #5, #42, #55, #72, #86
Tolman’s leading Am duo:
Fagg: “It was a combination of having a better track from FP1 and FP2, good space with the car, on new tyres, it felt great so I thought we should utilise everything we’ve got. The car was great out of the box, so once I had a good lap it turned out to be enough.”
Proctor: “It was really good, my last flier would have been better but I got a bit greedy on the brakes. I was quite surprised with the actual result, the car was great and gave me a lot of confidence. The McLaren has really good traction in these conditions.”
BMW’s Ben Green: “It’s a fantastic car, really good in the dry and the wet and we are really unlocking the pace in the car. Ben [Tuck] was quicker than me in the wet at Oulton Park so I’m sure he’ll do well here.”
For the GT4 Pro session the #22 Jaguar did an outlap but had front end damage from the first qualifying session and seemingly was unable to compete.
A 1:36.380 was enough to keep O’Brien’s #4 atop the timing screens once added to his team-mates, but the Mercedes GT4s were both ultimately quicker in the 1:35s. Osborne was quickest of all initially with a 1:35.370, then a 1:34.775, hauling the #56 McLaren to 11th on combined times, but then falling again as others improved.
Ben Tuck had indeed gone faster than Ben Green, with a 1:36.160, so he pushed the #42 BMW up to second, demoting the #5 McLaren due to Albert’s best being only a 1:36.861 but Albert then made amends with a 1:35.815.
As the chequered flag came out it looked as though the order would in fact be the same as from the Am session, but Barnicoat spoiled that pattern with a 1:35.500 to take the #72 McLaren up to fourth.
“I probably had a bit more on the table but I took the risk of putting new tyres on instead of scrubbed ones and it took them a bit too long to come in,” Barnicoat told DSC.
“It was a good session though, I think I was P3 in Pro and we are P4 overall, plus we have no pitstop penalty and new tyres for the race tomorrow. We started tenth at Oulton and won that so I have confidence in Adam hanging on to the Silver drivers in his stint and then fighting from there.”
The combined times will therefore lead to a grid order of #4, #5, #42, #72, #55. Behind those #62, #66, #10, #501 and #86 complete the top ten.
Alex Quinn, driver of the #86 Steller Toyota said that the team’s progress was evident in its qualifying performance today.
“We have made a big step forward from Oulton Park, it is very positive,” he said.
“I myself was struggling in practice but I knew the car was quick so it was a case of getting it together.
“Because of the red flag I only had two push laps and my quickest one wasn’t clear, I had to pass two cars so we are in a really good place for the race.”