The Ecurie Ecosse pairing of Marco Attard and Alex Sims out-qualified the field for the main race at Rockingham tomorrow after two flying lap stints combined to put them well over a second clear of Andrew Howard’s Aston Martin in second place.
The twin qualifying sessions of 15 minutes each is a new feature of British GT this year for the meetings that feature two races, as there are here at Rockingham tomorrow. The privilege of being at the front of the grid is earned by the driver pairing that sets the fastest laps in combination from each of the two qualification periods. The idea being that the ‘Am’ drivers are more fully involved as they each have to post a representative time, whilst racing amongst themselves in a dedicated session, rather than simply complete the three lap minimum before handing the car over to the ‘Pros’ to qualify for the team.
Greater participation and accountability for the ‘Am’ drivers? Better representation of the overall performance of a particular driver pairing? Surely this can only be a good thing? We here at Racing.GT think so, as do most of the drivers and Team Managers spoken to today.
The Pro drivers began the proceedings and after the cars were released for Q1, MP Motorsport AMR’s Richard Abra was quickest out of the blocks. Abra was the first driver to be into the 1:22’s but not for long as Alexander Sims took the #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 out for 2 hot laps recording a 1:22.497, good for a half-second gap, before backing-off and pitting with the job done. Sitting 3rd in GT3 was Jonny Adam in the #1 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage. Stirling work from Alex Buncombe in the #80 Nissan GTR saw him ‘qualify’ 4th ahead of John Gaw in another Aston Martin, this time in the PGF-Kinfaun AMR livery. Gavan Kershaw led the GT4s in the #77 Lotus Evora ahead of Jamie Stanley’s #48 Fox Motorsport G55 Ginetta and Dan Cammish third at the wheel of #44 Team Parker Racing Porsche 911 GT4.
I don’t really know what the hell is happening! Before this weekend we expected to not be that competitive here, but we have a bigger gap over the others than at Oulton. It’s quite impressive. The team has done a fantastic job in testing to learn as much as possible, and Marco’s done a bloody good job as well.
A short break for ice creams and driver changes found the cars lined-up at the pit lane exit awaiting the Q2 green flag behind the stricken #1 Beechdean Aston that looked to have stalled.
However; this stall could have been indicative of the problem that would beset the Aston half-way through the session when the brakes failed through Turn 1. Howard went straight-on at the Dean hair-pin, eventually coming to rest out on the Oval in between Turn 2 and 3 before being towed back to the pits. Prior to brake failure Howard recorded an impressive 1:24.960, good enough for a combined time equivalent to second place on the grid behind Marco Attard’s BMW Z4. However; the Beechdean P2 looked to be in doubt as the #1 car did not complete the required three flying laps during the session, nevertheless, representations made to the scrutineers ended with agreement on force majeure prevention of completion, due to brake issues, and the time already recorded stood.
Attard almost matched his team mate Sims with a barnstorming 1:24.404, which put the #79 Ecurie Escosse BMW a further half second ahead of the second placed car, for a total lead of 1.121s. A lead that wouldn’t be beaten in the time remaining.
I wasn’t expecting that first thing this morning! Alexander’s done a stunning time, and got me up to where I am now. I think this format is a great idea, and not just because we’re on pole!, but because it averages things out a bit, it means we’re all more involved.
Solid runs from both Matt Bell in Q1 and Mark Patterson in Q2 earned third place for the United Autosports Audi, only 5 hundreths behind the Howard/Adam Aston Martin.
Contender for drive of the day was Rick Parfitt jnr in the #42 Century Motorsport Ginetta GT4. In Q1 Parfitt matched his team mate’s second session time with a 1:30.909 and in doing so took put the #42 car in 5th place. Tom Oliphant took this performance and turned it into pole position in Q2. The Q1 pole-sitter, the #77 Lotus Evora of Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw, was demoted to P2 some 0.527s behind, just five thousandths of a second ahead of Ross Wylie in the #407 Beechdean Aston Martin GT4.
Being a singer, I don’t have much of an opinion… as far as I’m concerned, I get in it, go as fast as I can, then hand it over to Tom [Oliphant] and he goes faster, then we end up somewhere near the front! I hadn’t even thought about the changes in the format actually. That’s nice. I was out with most of the pros and to be fifth… I shouldn’t even be in that exalted company!”
Round 2 of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship begins tomorrow 13:55 follow us @RacingGT for live updates.