Qualifying today outlined the scope and potential of the season ahead with fantastically close lap times over the 2.69 mile undulating circuit as Ahmad Al Harthy set race one pole for Oman Racing Team in the #4 Aston and Alexander Sims achieved the same for race two in the #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4.
Al Harthy’s Aston was fastest from reigning champion Andrew Howard’s to make for an all-Aston Martin front row for Monday’s first race. Al Harthy’s 1m 36.147secs lap was over half a second clear of the Beechdean AMR with the second row made up of Sim’s team-mate Marco Attard and the AF Corse Ferrari 458 of Pasin Lathouras, as shared for the race with Richard Lyons.
It was the Scottish Z4 which was fastest in the race two qualifying, with Sims almost three-tenths faster than Howard’s team-mate, Jonny Adam. Row two for race two sees the #13 AF Corse car of qualifier Aaron Scott and John Dhillon and the M-Sport Bentley Continental R of Steven Kane and Rembert Berg.
The GT4 class saw an equally tight two qualifying sessions. In the first race qualifying it was Ross Wylie who led the way for Beechdean in the #407 Aston he shares with Jake Giddings, whilst in the second race qualifying it was the #77 Lotus of Gavan Kershaw, as shared with Oz Yusuf, which was fastest for Issy Racing.
Second fastest in the race one GT4 qualifying battle was the #42 Century Motorsport Ginetta of reigning champion Rick Parfitt and team-mate Tom Oliphant, with the #49 Andrew Jarman / Devon Modell TF Sport Aston third and the race two ‘pole’ sitter fourth fastest in class.
The top four GT4s for race two saw the #44 Team Parker Racing Porsche of Barrie Baxter and Dan Cammish second quickest to the Lotus, with the #407 Aston third fastest and the #49 TF Sport Aston fourth.
Not all competitors were able to contest qualifying, as the fastest car in the day’s second practice session, the #8 Triple Eight of Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne, and the #12 Trackspeed of Jody Firth and Warren Hughes miss the session due to an incident in second practice. Firth had suffered an off and was forced to abandon his car trackside. Mowle had a corresponding off in the same place, collecting the stricken car. Mowle was not hurt in the incident, but the same could not be said for both cars.
Harry Whale was another to miss qualifying, the #47 Silverstone Auctions AMR he was to share this weekend with Richie Stanaway, being also put to use in the AMR GT4 Challenge, where it sustained damage.
British GT debutant Sir Chris Hoy placed his #80 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN GT-R fourteenth on the grid for race one, whilst team-mate Alex Buncombe qualified in the same place for race two.
Tranquillity will now descend upon Oulton Park as no track activity takes place on Easter Sunday, with British GT springing back to life with the two one-hour races on Monday, with race one scheduled to start at 11:15 and race two scheduled for 15:45.
Ahmad Al Harthy, #4 Oman Team Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3
“We know how difficult it is around Oulton Park so myself and the team are very happy with our performance today; it’s just amazing. I’m delighted as that was my first time qualifying in an Aston Martin. Monday will be a long race but, for sure, we’re delighted to start from the perfect position.”
Alexander Sims, #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3
“It’s pretty awesome to get pole. To be competitive straight away is really nice. To be quite honest, I didn’t expect that we’d get pole. It’s a super, super competitive grid out there. I had an inclination we’d be competitive, but I didn’t know we’d have quite such an advantage. Even three tenths is a big gap, and then behind that is another big gap.”
Ross Wylie, #407 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin GT4 Challenge
“Pole is a great way to start the season, but I’m under no illusions as I’ve still got a lot to learn, but certainly to qualify P1 in the first session is a great way to start! We’ll see what happens on Monday, and it’ll be a little bit different having the GT3 cars going into turn one and dicing ahead of us. We’re just going to have to stay alert. Having the faster GT3 cars fighting for the same piece of track is going to be an experience. I’m very much looking forward to the challenge.”
Gavan Kershaw, #77 ISSY Racing / Oz Yusuf Lotus Evora GT4
“It was good to take pole, even if it was a little bit unexpected. I think I got lucky and dropped into a little pocket where there wasn’t any traffic which meant I was able to maximise the curves so it went really well. I think from what I could tell, the Porsche was getting overtaken by some GT3 cars so I think it hampered his lap a little bit. It was really good, and I really enjoyed it.”