Team Parker Racing and Bentley secured both overall pole positions for British GT’s season opener at Oulton Park this Monday (April 17) after team-mates Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris topped the GT3 Am and Pro sessions earlier today.
Meanwhile, Sandy Mitchell’s Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren claimed GT4 pole for Monday’s opening race before Century Motorsport’s Mike Simpson pinched top spot for the start of the second.
GT3 AM: PARFITT PREVAILS IN TOPSY TURVEY SESSION
Parfitt Jnr’s stunning final lap might have sealed pole position by 0.430s, but up until that point the GT3 Am session appeared wide open with the Bentley trading fastest times with a number of rivals.
Macmillan AMR’s Jack Mitchell made the early running and held provisional pole at the halfway mark when a red flag period briefly halted proceedings. Parfitt Jnr was only fourth at that point but immediately set about changing things once the session resumed and initially jumped to the top of the standings.
Mitchell wasn’t done, though, and improved again to leapfrog the Bentley before Jon Minshaw – ever-present in the top-three – appeared to have settled matters in his and the Barwell Motorsport-run Lamborghini’s favour. But Parfitt Jnr had other ideas and somehow found half-a-second on his final lap to seal pole once and for all with a best of 1m34.932s.
Minshaw joined him on the front row ahead of Mitchell, who was a further two tenths back in third, and Liam Griffin in the second of Barwell’s Lamborghinis. Mark Farmer’s TF Sport Aston Martin and the Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 driven by Harry Gottsacker completed the top-six.
Missing from the sharp end were Lee Mowle and reigning champion Derek Johnston who made contact at the start of the session. While the AMDtuning.com with Cobra Exhausts Mercedes-AMG soldiered on with damaged suspension and steering to finish ninth, the TF Sport Aston Martin was unable to set a time. That ensures Johnston and co-driver Jonny Adam – who skipped qualifying due to his FIA WEC commitments – will start both of Monday’s races from the tail of the GT3 field.
GT3 PRO: MORRIS ON POLE WITH NEW GT3 RECORD
The Pro session was far less dramatic but, after claiming pole, fastest lap and victory at Oulton Park last season, it was no surprise to see Morris’ name at the top of the timesheets once again.
The Welshman was nowhere on his first flying lap, but kept enough in reserve to post a 1m32.993s lap second time around. Not only was that good enough to topple Phil Keen’s Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini by 0.135s but it was also the fastest ever British GT3 lap around Oulton, beating his and the circuit’s previous best – set last season in qualifying – by six tenths.
British GT debutant Sam Tordoff left it very late to make it two Barwell Lamborghinis in the top-three. His best of 1m33.343s was two tenths shy of Keen’s time and 0.176s clear of Callum Macleod’s Team Parker Bentley.
A pair of Aston Martins share row three with TF Sport’s Jon Barnes heading Macmillan AMR’s James Littlejohn. Elsewhere, Ryan Ratcliffe still managed to qualify less than three seconds from pole in spite of the damage his Mercedes-AMG suffered in the earlier Am session.
GT4 AM: MITCHELL PIPS TREGURTHA TO POLE
Sandy Mitchell picked up where he left off at the end of 2016 by claiming pole for Monday’s opening race at Oulton. But his advantage was less than it might have been after Will Tregurtha’s second flying lap moved the HHC Motorsport driver to within 0.016s of top spot.
Mitchell, who claimed pole for two of 2016’s final three races, wasted no time by immediately setting the 1m43.103s lap that would prove good enough for pole. At that point the Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren was seven tenths clear of the rest, but Tregurtha – Mitchell’s closest challenger at that point – gathered himself to come within a whisker of beating the 570S.
In truth the top-two were in a league of their own, with Will Moore’s Academy Motorsport Aston Martin claiming third after lapping a second slower than the ultimate pace. The class’ second V8 Vantage, driven by Macmillan AMR’s William Phillips, completed the second row ahead of reigning champion Graham Johnson (PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport) and the second Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren driven by 16-year-old Dean Macdonald.
Two more McLarens – Marcus Hoggarth’s In2Racing example and the track-club-run 570S of Adam Balon – completed the top-eight.
GT4 PRO: SIMPSON GIVES CENTURY A TIMELY BOOST
Mike Simpson ensured Century Motorsport’s day ended much better than it started by claiming a new British GT4 qualifying lap record and class pole position for the second of Monday’s hour-long races.
Century’s other Ginetta sustained significant damage during a free practice accident, but Simpson proved the G55’s pace with a best time of 1m42.591s. Not only was that six tenths quicker than the previous qualifying best – also set by a Ginetta in the hands of Mike Robinson – but, crucially, it was also 0.072s faster than Ciaran Haggerty could manage aboard the same Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren with which Sandy Mitchell had claimed pole for Race 1.
A badly flat-spotted tyre might have consigned Lanan Racing to the back of Race 1’s grid but David Pittard underlined the team’s potential by setting the third fastest time in the second session. His 1m43.013s was 0.422s shy of Simpson’s time but, crucially, more than a tenth clear of Martin Plowman who moved from sixth to fourth late in the session aboard his UltraTek Nissan 370Z.
Scott Malvern made it four different manufacturers in the top-five with his Team Parker Racing-run Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, while Joe Osborne, reigning champion Mike Robinson and Jan Jonck completed the top-eight.
Rick Parfitt Jnr, #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3: “I sat down with Seb after practice and he told me a few things that I needed to do better, like taking a higher gear through a couple of corners. I didn’t feel confident enough initially but then, on the final lap, threw caution to the wind. I knew my previous best wouldn’t be good enough so had to give it a go. The tyres were still in good shape because of the red flag and it also took a while to get heat into them. It’s the fastest I’ve ever been around here.”
Seb Morris, #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3: “We’re taking a different approach this season and clearly it’s already paying off. We’ve also worked hard on the car, which has reacted well to Pirelli’s slightly wider front tyres. The car’s always had a weak front end but they’ve sorted that out. A tenth isn’t very much, though, so clearly the BoP is reasonably spot on here. The car seems to suit the circuit, plus it’s one of mine and Rick’s favourites. So we’re in a good place for Monday.”
Sandy Mitchell, #100 Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren 570S GT4: “I felt reasonably hooked up and managed to get the job done on my first lap when the tyre was at its peak. The second was also good but the tyres weren’t quite up to it. Ciaran also did a great job so we’re really happy with pole and second for the two races. We’ve both improved a lot since the start of last season and obviously the car has come a long way, especially compared to when we raced here. We started to hit our stride at the end of 2016 and haven’t changed too much since then. Everything’s falling into place, although we’re not sure if our one-lap pace will translate into a consistent race stint. The car’s heavier than the Ginetta, which might have an impact on Monday.”
An accident in one of the support championships and subsequent rescheduling of BRDC British F3’s first race means Monday’s schedule differs to that previously advertised. While British GT’s warm-up and first race both take place as planned at 09:30 and 11:10 respectively, its second race has moved forwards by 15 minutes to 15:15.