It is the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 of Oliver Bryant and Marco Attard that will start tomorrow’s three-hour Avon Tyres British GT championship Silverstone 500 race from pole position, after a hotly contested qualifying session this afternoon. In the GT4 class, Ricardo Van Der Ende and Bernhard Van Oranje will start from class pole in their BMW M3 GT4, ensuring BMW tops both classes for the first time in British GT history.
Under late afternoon sunshine, Silverstone played host to a thrilling 45-minute Avon Tyres British GT championship qualifying session, with pole position decided in the final couple of minutes. Oliver Bryant was the driver who eventually claimed the top spot on the grid with a time of 2:02.600 on his thirteenth lap.
After an initial burst of hot laps from some of the ‘Pro’ drivers, it was Trackspeed Porsche driver, Richard Westbrook, who put in a 2:03.117 to get the times tumbling. This was bettered by his team-mate Phil Keen in the #33 car with a lap of 2:02.994.
Keen’s lap remained the time to beat for the majority of the session as the gentleman drivers took over from their more experienced colleagues to complete their mandatory three ‘fast’ laps, and few improvements were recorded.
At this point the first seventeen cars were covered by just under two seconds and the first nine covered by under nine tenths of a second, such was the quality of the field on display at the Towcester circuit today.
Jamie Stanley and Paul McNeil were mixing it with the tail end of the GT3 field in their Ferrari 430 GT3, the pair are the sole entrants in the GT3B class this weekend and are exploring the possibility of joining the series full-time next season. The FF Corse pair finished qualifying in 33rd position, 1.5 seconds off the sole GTC entry of another FF Corse Ferrari, this time a 458 GTC challenge specification car of quick Brit, Charlie Hollings and Jacques Duyver, another driver evaluating British GT for future plans.
Unsurprisingly, the GT4 class was a hot bed of interest with the arrival of eight new cars from the continent as this weekend plays host to the first round of the Avon Tyres GT4 Trophy. Teams from across Europe race together for points towards the GT4 Trophy, and this weekend compete for points in the British GT4 category too.
Having proven their pace in the earlier free practice sessions, all eyes were on the Ekris BMW M3 GT4 of Ricardo van Der Ende, the 2011 European GT4 Cup Champion, and Bernhard Van Oranje. Initially though it was the Porsche Cup GT4 of Adam Christodoulou and Joerg Viebahn that led the way from British GT4 points leaders Declan Jones and Zoe Wenham in their Century Motorsport Ginetta G50.
Ekris would indeed take pole position in the GT4 class, but not in the comfortable manner predicted. van Der Ende put in a fearless lap of 2:14.989 at the close of the session to take pole by only by two tenths from Dan Eagling and Matt Smith in the Redgate Lifetime Racing G50. Third in class and just nine hundreds of a second off the Ginetta were Duncan Huisman and Luc Braams in the V8Racing8v Chevrolet Camaro SS GT4, themselves just four tenths off the sister Ekris M3 GT4 of Jan Joris Verheul and Pieter Christiaan van Oranje.
Behind them were the Pro Sport Porsche in sixth and Jones and Wenham’s Ginetta in seventh. The Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G50 of Ryan Ratcliffe and Rick Parfitt Jnr was eighth fastest, but the young pairing have shown this season that their abilities over a hot qualifying lap belies their race pace.
Cor Euser was ninth quickest in class, the Dutch driver using the same Lotus Evora GT4 that was raced on Monday at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring event in Germany. Nigel Farmer and Henry Taylor’s Motorground Ginetta was tenth, 2.4 seconds off of the class pole time.
With the best weather of the day now blessing the 3.66 mile Grand Prix circuit, times began to tumble and teams championship points leaders were never far from the front. 888 Optimum’s Dan Brown consistently invaded the top three positions on the timesheet, along with Allan Simonsen’s Ferrari 458 Italia GT3. Brown and team-mate Steve Tandy finished seventh, six tenths off pole and the Rosso Verde driver would eventual finish eighth, ahead of Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard in the Beechdean AMR V12 Vantage, and the #14 Fortec Mercedes AMG SLS GT3 of Benji Hetherington and Jason Minshaw.
Matteo Bobbi leapt to second overall with a lap of 2:02.920 on the sixteenth lap completed by the #27 Ferrari; this finished as a place on row three for the Vita4One Team Italy driver that shares his car with Jay Palmer. Bobbi and Palmer will start sixth tomorrow, the fastest Ferrari, with 888Optimum’s Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle alongside them in fifth after the British duo found some clear track late on for their BMW Z4 GT3.
Behind Bryant and Attard were the three Trackspeed Porsches in numerical order: 31, 32, and 33. Try as he might, Rockingham winner, Westbrook couldn’t get the better of team-mate Tandy today, and in the final stages of the qualifying session, the pair finished just seven hundredths of a second apart, ten thousandths of a second ahead of the #33 Porsche of Keen and Jon Minshaw.
Fastest McLaren was the Von Ryan Racing MP4-12c of Duncan Tappy and Gregoire Demoustier in thirteenth place, over four tenths quicker than the United Autosports McLaren of factory driver Alvaro Parente and Zak Brown, who finished sixteenth overall.
Elsewhere, Colin White and Tom Sharp excelled on the fast straights of Grand Prix circuit, their Ginetta G55 will start from eleventh, after a succession of quick laps at the death of session by Ginetta stalwart, White.
Top Audi was the United Autosports R8 of Matt Bell and Mark Patterson in 21st, just ahead of fellow podium finishers last time out, Warren Hughes and Rembert Berg’s M-Sport Audi.
Tomorrow’s three-hour race will be broadcast LIVE on Motors TV in the UK, France and across Europe, with coverage beginning shortly before the 1 pm race start. Coverage of the Silverstone weekend runs from 11:55 am to 6 pm (BST) and will include everything from the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series, the APR Volkswagen Racing Cup, and the Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge.
Track action tomorrow morning gets started at 9am for a short ten-minute warm-up, before the main event, the Silverstone 500 at 1pm.
Oliver Bryant – driver, #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 (GT3 pole)
‘It’s fantastic. We worked really hard on the car to give it a good qualifying set up. We knew we were good on old tyres for race pace, but we were struggling to match some of the others for overall time. It’s very useful for Marco, to start from the front and hopefully stay out of trouble. Delighted. For tomorrow, we need to push, stay out of trouble and stay inside the track limits. A lot of cars were penalised for that last year.’
Nick Tandy – driver, #31 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R (GT3 2nd)
‘We’re very happy with that. I think the track temperature was very different to this morning and our car was very different, so we made a pretty significant set of changes to the car after the fast run in the qualifying session. It made a huge difference to the car and both David and I found it to be very drivable. Obviously the longer the race the less qualifying matters, but in a three-hour race being on the front row is no bad thing to stay out of trouble. I think we’re quite surprised to be ahead of a couple of the BMWs that we thought would do really well here. From the last three races the biggest threat to us winning is from within the team and the best driving combinations are within Trackspeed too. Griffin, Simonsen, Bobbi will all be a threat if they’re near the front, but I think staying out of trouble, managing your tyres and dealing with the traffic is a big part of racing.’
Richard Westbrook – driver, #32 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R (GT3 3rd)
‘It was good, we’re reasonably pleased. We’re not so good over one lap, but this weekend seems to be following a similar trend to Rockingham, which gives us real confidence for the race. Its a case of getting the rear to work at the right time and the front to work at the right time and at the moment that isn’t happening in sync with these tyres. Gregor is on fire at the moment and compared to the other amateurs he’s right up there and I think we can aim for a podium, despite the success penalty we’re carrying for the win at Rockingham.’
Dan Eagling – driver, #50 Redgate Lifetime Racing Ginetta G50 (GT4 2nd)
‘We’re really happy and pleased, over a second ahead of the next Ginetta. It was a bit of a surprise, no traffic, it couldn’t have gone much better if I’m honest. We could’ve got a little more from another lap, but its a three hour race so there isn’t any point pushing it any further. I’m really happy with my team-mate, he’s been solid this weekend and we’re looking forward to it tomorrow.’
Full qualifying times can be viewed here: http://ow.ly/loFJM
Avon Tyres British GT Championship – Silverstone
Silverstone Arena GP Circuit, 3.66-mile, 18-turn race circuit, Towcester, Northants
May 25th – May 26th, 2013
British GT Championship: Round #3 of 7
Race Duration: 1 x 180 minutes
British GT TV Broadcast:
Motors TV: LIVE, Sunday May 26th 12:45 pm – 4:05pm
Channel 4: Highlights, Saturday June 1st, 7:00 am – 7:30 am
Motors TV: Highlights, Sunday May 26th 10:05 pm – 10:50 pm
More listings here: http://www.britishgt.com/television.php
British GT Online Race Coverage:
www.twitter.com/britishgt – for live text commentary
Schedule (All times BST):
Sunday, May 26, 2013:
Warm up: 09:00 am – 09:10 am (All Classes)
Race 1: 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm (3 hours)