Shaun Balfe will start the #22 Balfe Motorsport McLaren 720S from pole position in Sunday’s two-hour British GT encounter after he and Rob Bell posted the best combined time in Saturday afternoon’s GT3 qualifying session around the Kent circuit’s Grand Prix layout.
Balfe’s 1:25.663 was the fourth-fastest time in the Am driver session, and the fastest by a genuine Am driver, the top three in that session being made up of Silver Cup contenders Ollie Wilkinson (#96 Optimum Aston), Angus Fender (#9 Century BMW) and Ryan Ratcliffe (#7 Team Parker Bentley).
Bell backed that up by posting a 1:24.880 in the second part of GT3 qualifying. Wilkinson’s co-driver Bradley Ellis posted a 1:25.143, which was enough to put the Silver Cup car on the front row for Sunday’s race alongside the McLaren.
Fastest overall in the Pro session though was Callum MacLeod, wiping away the disappointment of an early exit from last weekend’s Spa 24 Hours with an excellent 1:24.340 in the Ram Mercedes.
“We were slightly nervous going in, we weren’t sure where we sat among everyone,” Balfe said afterwards. “Somebody in the team said before qualifying, ‘look lads, you’re just going to have to lick it and send it’. Me and Rob took that on board and it just seemed to fall together nicely.”
Bell added: “It’s been a lot of hard work to get here and there’ll be more hard work tonight. Shaun had a great turn of speed and the car seems to be working well. It wasn’t when we got here, we had a little bit of work to go, but we methodically got through it. The team have done a great job, so it’s a nice day for us all.”
The second row of the grid will be made up of championship-contending cars: Sam de Haan will start the #69 Barwell Lamborghini shared with Jonny Cocker from third, alongside Graham Davidson in the #47 TF Sport Aston Martin shared with Johnny Adam in fourth.
On the third row, the #9 Century BMW of GT3 newcomer Angus Fender and co-driver Jack Mitchell lines up in fifth, with sixth taken by the Ian Loggie/Calum Macleod-driven Ram Racing Mercedes.
The other GT3 championship contenders, Adam Balon and Phil Keen, start ninth in the #72 Barwell Lamborghini, behind the #31 JRM Bentley in seventh and #3 Century BMW in eighth. The top 10 is completed by Glynn Geddie and Ratcliffe in the #7 Bentley.
GT4: HHC McLaren On Pole
Callum Pointon and Dean MacDonald, currently fourth in the GT4 driver’s standings, qualified on GT4 pole position in the #57 HHC Motorsport McLaren, with their combined time just a tenth faster than second-place qualifiers Tom Canning and Ash Hand in the #97 TF Sport Aston Martin (currently third in the points standings).
MacDonald said afterwards: “I was nervous for that one! I even said on the radio that it didn’t feel quite right, but I’m happy now. We’ve no time penalty from Spa, so we’re in a really good position. Our race pace looks really promising as well.”
On the second row, Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman were the fastest Pro-Am qualifiers and third-quickest overall in the #11 Beechdean Aston Martin, ahead of James Dorlin and Josh Smith in the #4 Tolman McLaren.
Scott Malvern and Nick Jones in the #66 Team Parker Mercedes also got among the Silver Cup runners, qualifying second in Pro-Am and fifth overall, while sixth went to the #75 Optimum Motorsport Aston Martin of Mike Robinson and Patrik Matthiesen.
Championship leaders Seb Priaulx and Scott Maxwell could only qualify 10th fastest overall in the #15 Mustang, but carry no pitstop success penalty into Sunday’s race, while you have to go down to 14th to find the third-fastest Pro-Am car: the #77 Fox Motorsport Mercedes of Michael Broadhurst and Mark Murfitt.