• Astons dominate GT3 courtesy of Beechdean AMR and Oman Racing Team
• Tolman Motorsport and ISSY Racing share GT4 spoils
Oman Racing Team’s Liam Griffin and Beechdean AMR’s Jonny Adam secured overall pole positions for Monday’s season opening Avon Tyres British GT Championship double-header at Oulton Park this afternoon following two action-packed GT3 qualifying sessions.
The bumper 16-car GT4 category was equally competitive, with ISSY Racing’s Oz Yusuf coming out on top of the AM session before Luke Davenport secured the Pro pole.
GT3 AM: GRIFFIN SECURES ‘SURPRISE’ POLE
Griffin himself admitted that fastest time in the first of Saturday’s GT3 sessions had come as something of a surprise. Nevertheless, his late flying lap of 1m35.858s was still quick enough to jump fellow front row starter, Gary Eastwood, by a healthy 0.3sec.
The Ferrari driver had only taken provisional pole just as the 10-minute session entered its final throes after leapfrogging Andrew Howard’s Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3. The 2013 champion lines up third, just a tenth ahead of Mercedes man Alistair MacKinnon who gave newcomers RAM Racing an encouraging start to their British GT programme.
Fellow debutant Andrew Watson was a solid fifth in his Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650S, while last year’s pole-sitter Ahmad Al Harthy was sixth.
Practice pace-setters Barwell Motorsport endured a difficult session with both of their BMW Z4 GT3s; Team Russia by Barwell Racing with Demon Tweeks’ Jon Minshaw was ninth while reigning champion Marco Attard qualified 12th in the Ecurie Ecosse entry.
Liam Griffin, Oman Racing Team (1st, GT3 Am): “That was a little bit surprising, it’s fair to say! And considerably quicker than I went in practice, too. I had the guys on the radio egging me on saying I needed to go faster, so on that last bit I thought I should go for it. I’d seen from the data that Rory carried more speed than me everywhere so I just grew a pair and went for it, which seemed to work! Historically it’s a good race car; Ahmad won in it last year here so you’d hope it will go the distance. Racing is a different matter but I don’t mind that side of it so I think we’ll be all right.”
GT3 PRO: ADAM TO THE FORE
Having seen Beechdean AMR co-driver Howard secure third, Jonny Adam unleashed the full potential of his Aston Martin to lap almost 0.4sec clear of Adam Carroll in the FF Corse Ferrari, which lines up second for both of Monday’s races. Not only that, but the AMR factory driver’s 1m33.877s lap was two tenths faster than Alexander Sims’ 2014 qualifying benchmark.
Phil Keen’s best aboard the Barwell BMW was good enough for third ‘at a circuit that doesn’t suit the Z4’, with Sims a slender 0.037sec further back in the similar Ecurie Ecosse machine.
A fantastic effort from Mike Simpson sees the Team LNT Ginetta GT3 he shares with Steve Tandy start fifth, albeit less than two tenths shy of Keen in third. And Joe Osborne made it three BMWs inside the top six after nipping his Triple Eight Z4 GT3 ahead of Matt Bell’s TF Sport-prepared Aston.
Jonny Adam, Beechdean AMR (1st, GT3 Pro): “It was a good lap; neat and tidy. Weirdly, coming here I thought a 1m33s would be possible because last year I did a 1m34.3, I think. The Aston really suits the new Avon tyres so we got two quick laps. It was good to split qualifying as well because last year was so busy and trying to get a clear lap was impossible, but this season was really good. I think we can hang on to it in the race. Andrew qualified third for race one so I think top four or five is possible and we’ll go for a win in race two. But the car feels good so we’ll see how we get on. We’ve not done huge mileage on the tyres so it will be a learning process for us on Monday, but it should be fine.”
Adam Carroll, FF Corse (2nd GT3 Pro): “It’s been a good start and I’m happy, especially considering we really didn’t get many laps in practice. We didn’t know what to expect but the car was really good, the balance was there and I was able to get out, get on with it and push hard. All the cars seem pretty equal compared to last year. Numbers are one thing but you don’t get to see the differences until you’re out on track following someone else. It’s even at the minute but we’ll see how the season plays out. We probably could have got a couple more tenths out of it but, to be honest, not much more than that. All we could’ve hoped for was second so we’ll go out on Monday and see what happens.”
Phil Keen, Team Russia by Barwell Racing with Demon Tweeks (3rd, GT3 Pro): “We didn’t know what to expect, really. We knew the Aston and Ferrari would be quick so we’re not surprised on the grid positioning. It would be nice to have been a bit further up, but I think that’s all our car’s got at the moment, to be honest. Especially around here because it’s a traction circuit and the BMW’s more of an aero car. I’m pretty pleased so we’ll look forward to the race on Monday when we expect to have better pace over the longer run.”
GT4 AM: YUSUF’S HARD WORK PAYS OFF
Oz Yusuf put his dominant GT4 Am pole position down to his and ISSY Racing’s hard graft during the winter after lapping over a second quicker than his nearest rival in the day’s opening qualifying session.
The Lotus Evora he shares with Gavan Kershaw was comfortably clear of Will Moore’s Academy Motorsport-run Aston Martin GT4 Challenge, which backed out of a faster final run despite purple and personal best times through sectors one and two respectively. He was still six tenths ahead of James Birch in the Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 though, which moved up several places in the dying moments.
Oz Yusuf, ISSY Racing (1st, GT4 Am): “I’m pleased with that because we’ve worked hard for it. I’ve been doing quite a bit of testing, racing and winter training. Basically whatever I could do, I’ve done. I was on a quicker lap but got held up, which knocked about three tenths of a second off, but it was fast enough and that’s what counts. We’ve worked so hard. And the team has been fantastic – I’ve got to thank them for this. As a package we’re strong and we deserve it. All of us have worked very, very hard, especially Dave Kershaw who has helped me a lot. This one’s for him.”
Will Moore, Academy Motorsport (2nd, GT4 Am): “Happy with that! The car went well. Obviously it’s the first round and we can’t ask for more than that. The Lotus is really quick, a second faster than me, and I thought I was giving it everything! It’s still a learning curve for us at the moment as we’ve only just come into the car this season. But obviously everyone wants to win so we’ll definitely be giving it a go on Monday.”
GT4 PRO: DAVENPORT GIVES TOLMAN MOTORSPORT GINETTA POLE
Any one of Davenport, Bradley Ellis and Kershaw might have secured GT4 Pro pole for Monday’s second race, but in the end it was the Tolman Motorsport Ginetta G55 that took the spoils.
Ellis’ Twisted Team Parker Ginetta made much of the early running but was eventually stumped by Davenport’s 1m43.132s lap, which proved just over three tenths faster. Kershaw was a further 0.2sec back but, having just recorded the fastest first sector of anyone, was forced to abandon his final flyer when Jade Edwards beached her Aston in the gravel.
Luke Davenport, Tolman Motorsport (1st, GT4 Pro): “It’s been a great start to the year. We prepared really well so we knew we had a quick car coming into this but we didn’t know where we were in comparison to the others. I was therefore really pleased to deliver. Qualifying is a completely different kettle of fish to an endurance race, and we’ve got a long way to go, but it’s nice to know we’re quick over one lap. For me personally, I want to be the quickest of the Pros. There are some serious drivers that I’m up against so it’s great to be battling at the front with them. I want to learn as much as I can about GT racing; this is where there’s still a career path for young drivers so we’ll keep pushing and learning as much as we can. If we can be the quickest Pro then great, but we’ll see what happens.”
Gavan Kershaw, ISSY Racing (3rd, GT4 Pro): “Perfect. It’s a big step forward for Ozzy, which is well deserved. He’s put so much effort in with his physical fitness, racing different cars and he understands data logging now so you can really see the difference, which makes our life easier. As a pairing hopefully we’ll be strong. The car’s on the pace, Ozzy’s pole is well deserved and, from looking at the time sheets, the drivers he’ll be up against when I start third should leave us in a strong position. The car’s carrying a lot of ballast but it’s good to see all three Evoras out there, to be honest.”
Each crew’s designated Am driver will start the first of Monday’s two one-hour races, while the Pros will be behind the wheel to start the second.