GT3 championship challengers Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam will line up on pole position for tomorrow’s British GT #DoningtonDecider after topping both the Am and Pro qualifying sessions earlier today. Meanwhile, title chaser Jack Bartholomew and Beechdean AMR co-driver Ross Gunn start at the front of the GT4 class.
GT3: Unstoppable TF Sport dominate Am and Pro sessions
The day’s earlier inclement weather had cleared in time for qualifying, which was run in fully dry conditions. And that was good news for TF Sport who’d opted to limit their wet weather practice track time in an effort to preserve their Aston Martin.
That would prove a shrewd decision come mid-afternoon when Johnston topped the initial Am session by a meagre 0.011s from Andrew Howard whose late lap aboard the Beechdean AMR V12 Vantage pushed championship leader Jon Minshaw down to third at the end of a frenetic 10 minutes.
And, with his nose fractionally ahead, Adam had no intention of relinquishing top-spot. The Scot, who along with Johnston trails Barwell Motorsport’s Minshaw and Phil Keen by 11.5 points, banged in consecutive fastest laps to claim pole by a combined 0.414s, a tenth more than had covered an incredibly close top-seven after the initial Am session.
Adam’s best of 1m27.602s was almost two tenths faster than Rob Bell could manage in the Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren. Nevertheless, his last gasp effort moved the 650S he shares with Alasdair McCaig up to second after starting the Pro session sixth.
Keen was visibly disappointed with his effort after an early off compromised his Lamborghini’s subsequent performance. Nevertheless, he and Minshaw remain firmly in the hunt for their maiden British GT crown starting from third, one place ahead of the sister Huracan driven by Liam Griffin and Alexander Sims who are well set to help Barwell overturn their 14.5-point deficit to TF Sport in the teams’ championship.
Rick Parfitt Jnr was just 0.164s shy of Johnston’s benchmark Am time but slipped to fifth and almost a second off the combined pace after co-driver Seb Morris was unable to unlock the Team Parker Racing Bentley’s potential. Both now face an uphill challenge to secure the victory that would keep them in title contention.
TF Sport’s second Aston Martin driven by Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes was next up ahead of Ian Stinton and Mike Simpson’s Tolman Motorsport Ginetta that had led both wet free practice sessions, while Phil Dryburgh and Ross Wylie’s Motorbase Performance Aston Martin completed the top-eight.
But there was disappointment for Howard and Rory Butcher who were denied a chance to challenge for pole after a mechanical issue prevented the latter from completing a competitive lap.
Jonny Adam, #17 TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “We had a conversation at the start of the day about what to do if it rained, which it did, and the plan was to preserve the car for when it dried out. Derek’s lap was good but I actually think there was a bit more in him. He was quicker when we tested here a few weeks ago, which bodes well for tomorrow. However, Minshaw also looked good and I’m sure Phil [Keen] will be up to speed in the race, so the ball’s still in their court. If they were fifth or sixth then it’s a bit more mixed up at the start. Consistency will be key for all of the Ams; we’ll see where we are after the opening stint.”
Rob Bell, #79 Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 650S GT3: “It’s been a difficult day after it rained this morning but I actually enjoy those tricky situations when you’re chucked in at the deep end. Some of the corner profiles have changed now they’ve added sausage curbs; I’m an experienced driver but still learning, so just built up to it and fortunately the last lap came together nicely, so I was pretty happy with it. We’ve got nothing to lose tomorrow, unlike a few of the other guys, so who knows. Hopefully we can go out on a high.”
Phil Keen, #33 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “Third doesn’t reflect the car’s potential but at least we’re in the mix for tomorrow. I guess the biggest issue is I didn’t test here so those were my first laps in the dry around Donington in the Lambo. Maybe I tried a bit too hard a bit too early and ran a bit wide. But at least Jon’s on fire this weekend and driving really well.”
GT4: AdVantage Bartholomew as Gunn shows his class
Jack Bartholomew begins his quest to overturn a 2.5-point championship deficit from the perfect position tomorrow after he and Beechdean AMR co-driver Ross Gunn claimed GT4 class pole by a combined 0.147s.
Sandy Mitchell gave Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse the advantage at half-time after narrowly claiming provisional pole by 0.018s from Generation AMR Macmillan Racing’s Matthew Graham.
But that was without reckoning on Gunn who subsequently paced the Pro session to move his and Bartholomew’s #407 V8 Vantage from third to first. The reigning class champion’s 1m36.030s wasn’t just the fastest lap of the day but also half-a-second faster than Ciaran Haggerty could muster in the McLaren, which slipped to second in the final classification as a result.
Points leader Mike Robinson had some work to do after PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport co-driver Graham Johnson ended the Am session sixth. And he didn’t disappoint en route to the third fastest time of the day, and quickest of the Ginetta continent, to line up directly behind his main championship rivals tomorrow.
The McLaren and Ginetta’s pace relegated Graham and Jack Mitchell to fourth in the combined classification, one place ahead of Lanan Racing’s Alex Reed and Joey Foster who begin their quest to retain third in the class standings from fifth place tomorrow.
British GT debutant Sam Webster and Jamie Stanley start sixth in their Fox Motorsport-run G55 after the latter picked up two places during the Pro session, while Stefan Hodgetts and James Fletcher’s GPRM Toyota GT86 made it four different manufacturers inside the top-seven.
RCIB Insurance Racing’s William Phillips and Jordan Stilp slipped from fourth to eighth in the final reckoning but start tomorrow’s two-hour race ahead of Marcus Hoggarth and Abbie Eaton’s Ebor GT Maserati, as well as the UltraTek Lotus Evora driven by Tim Eakin and Gavan Kershaw.
Matthew George recorded the second fastest time in the Pro session but lines up only 17th due to the combined qualifying times. That’s still one place ahead of Aaron Mason whose accident at the end of the Am session prevented RCIB Insurance Racing’s Rob Barrable from setting a time.
Jack Bartholomew, #407 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V8 Vantage: “Ross has given me the best opportunity possible of bringing the championship back to Beechdean AMR for a third time. Obviously we’ve got our main competitors right behind us so it won’t be easy, especially as we also have to try and pull five seconds on them to make up for the pit-stop success penalty. So it’s going to be a challenge but we’ll see what we can do. I feel like there was definitely more in me during my session but I’ll take pole any day of the week.”
Ciaran Haggerty, Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S GT4: “The car was good; just a bit of oversteer, which is why I spun! Still, the time was good enough for the front row and I’m happy with how the session went. Sandy also did a good job. We’ve done a lot of testing since Snetterton and are now really on the pace. That bodes well for the race; speed-wise I think we can challenge the Aston, especially as their time penalty will help us out.”
Graham Johnson, PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “The car felt the best it has done all year, but I’m worried we won’t be quick enough to challenge the Aston tomorrow. I still had a couple of tenths in me but Mike’s lap was mega. He was three tenths quicker than the rest of the Ginettas but unfortunately we’re not fighting them for the title. It’s going to be difficult for us but we’ll give it our best shot.”