Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport’s Graham Johnson have secured respective GT3 and GT4 pole positions for Monday’s opening British GT race at Oulton Park, while Team Parker Racing’s Seb Morris and Mike Robinson (also of PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport) will line up at the front for race two following today’s four 10-minute qualifying sessions.
GT3: BARWELL LAMBORGHINIS ANNEX FRONT ROW BEFORE MORRIS PIPS BELL
Jon Minshaw secured a first British GT pole position for the Lamborghini Huracan after Barwell Motorsport dominated the GT3 Am qualifying session at Oulton Park.
Minshaw was at the sharp end throughout after setting the second fastest time on his first run before immediately improving to jump to the top. His 1m35.579s lap would remain the benchmark thereafter as others repeatedly tried and failed to better his time.
Team-mate Liam Griffin came closest but ultimately had to settle for second with a lap just 0.039s shy of pole. But crucially he, unlike Minshaw, has no pit-stop success penalty to serve during Monday’s first hour-long race.
Rick Parfitt Jnr was only a tenth further back after a last gasp effort leapfrogged the Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 ahead of Derek Johnston’s championship-leading TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage, which had led the early exchanges.
Alasdair McCaig was another to improve second time around aboard the Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 650S GT3 en route to fifth. Reigning champion Andrew Howard was next up in the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin, while Will Moore saved his best until last to move the Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS up to seventh. Mark Farmer completed the top-eight for TF Sport.
Richard Neary set the 11th fastest time but starts last of the GT3 runners after failing to set his mandatory second flying lap.
The GT3 Pro session also featured a late change when Morris improved to secure his second pole of the season for Team Parker Racing. So competitive was the class that only 0.7s covered a top-eight comprising four different manufacturers.
Rob Bell’s Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren led after the first round of flying laps but couldn’t improve thereafter. That left the door ajar for Morris who had been second but grabbed pole by just 0.031s on his second run.
A late effort from Phil Keen helped the Am pole-winning Lamborghini secure third on the grid for Monday’s second race after narrowly beating Ross Gunn’s Beechdean AMR Aston Martin by just 0.014s. Jonny Adam, who immediately dashed to the airport for his Nurburgring 24 Hours transfer, was less than half a tenth further back in the TF Sport V12 Vantage.
Griffin’s co-driver Adam Carroll had been right behind Morris after the opening skirmish before having his fastest lap removed for not respecting track limits. He starts the second race from sixth ahead of PFL Motorsport’s Jody Fannin and Jon Barnes in the second TF Sport Aston Martin.
Mike Simpson’s Tolman Motorsport Ginetta is ninth ahead of Joe Osborne in the AmDTuning.com BMW Z4.
Seb Morris, Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3: “We didn’t quite get the tyres up to temperature so I actually think there’s a bit more pace in the car. I’m looking forward to taking my first ever start in the Bentley on Monday, provided of course Rick [Parfitt Jnr] keeps his nose out of trouble in the first race! It’s nice to reinforce what people saw at Brands and know pole there wasn’t a fluke. Three hundredths wasn’t much in the end, but it was just about enough!”
GT4: JOHNSON AND ROBINSON DOMINATE TO GIVE OPTIMUM DOUBLE POLE
PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport dominated both GT4 sessions to secure its third consecutive pole of the season.
Johnson was first up in the Am segment but didn’t have things all his own way initially after Beechdean AMR’s Jack Bartholomew bumped the Brands Hatch race winner down to second after the first runs. But the Ginetta driver wasn’t to be denied and responded next time around to post a 1m43.866s lap.
A red flag with three minutes remaining did nothing for the drivers’ rhythm, and there were few improvements when the action resumed. Indeed, Bartholomew could nothing to bridge his 0.124s deficit and lines up second, one place ahead of Alex Reed’s Lanan Racing G55.
Sandy Mitchell set the fastest first sector of anyone in the closing stages but aborted the lap after encountering traffic. He starts fourth aboard the Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S GT4 ahead of Century Motorsport’s Sean Byrne who was one of the few to improve after the red flag interruption.
William Phillips’ RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta ended up sixth despite causing the red flag for clipping a tyre wall that subsequently required repairs, while Anna Walewska’s second Century entry made it five G55s in the top-seven.
Matthew Graham’s Macmillan Racing Aston Martin was eighth ahead of debutant Aaron Mason and Kieran Griffin.
The GT4 Pro session was a little more straightforward for Johnson’s co-driver Robinson who was never headed after the first round of flying laps. Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse’s Ciaran Haggerty initially challenged but couldn’t sustain a rate of improvement that saw Robinson ultimately set two times fast enough for pole, the first of which – 1m43.108s – proved quickest of all.
In the end it was Scott Malvern who came closest to snatching pole in what would have been a fairytale end to Simpson Motorsport’s day. Their Ginetta had been quick in practice before sustaining a freak accident and damage at the end of FP2, leaving the crew with a race against time to fix their Ginetta.
Incredibly there was time for co-driver Nick Jones to complete an installation lap during the Am session before Malvern was unleashed in the Pro segment. An early setback resulted in his fastest time and second place being deleted for exceeding track limits, but the former Formula Ford champion responded to reclaim a place on the front row in the dying moments.
That bumped Haggerty down to third by little more than half a tenth, while Matthew George’s Generation AMR SuperRacing Aston Martin was only 0.017s further back in fourth.
Nathan Freke’s FP1 pace suggested he and Century would prove serious pole position contenders, but he could only manage fifth in the end, one place clear of Jake Giddings’ JWBird Motorsport V8 Vantage.
Another Aston – the Macmillan Racing example – driven by Jack Mitchell ended up seventh, albeit 1.2s shy of pole, while Abbie Eaton completed the top-eight in her Ebor GT-run Maserati MC GranTurismo.
Graham Johnson, PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “I’m quite disappointed with the lap, actually. I got blocked and could have gone a lot quicker. It’s not often you’re on pole and feel disappointed but I would have liked to demonstrate our true pace. You always want to do your best and when you don’t there’s a competitive element that says ‘I could have done more’. But ok, after what happened at Rockingham, I guess it’s good that we were able to come here with a rebuilt car and underline our inherent speed.”
Mike Robinson, PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “In stark contrast to Graham I’m very pleased! I got a little lucky with the traffic because I didn’t get out of the pits first, but still ensured I had enough room to set a decent time. I had no traffic at all. It’s good because we know this is going to be the last ‘Ginetta circuit’, and after what happened at Rockingham it’s important to score as many points as possible. I carried on pushing on my final lap because my engineer said I was two tenths off, which I thought meant we’d lost pole. The car feels great, which is just as well because there are plenty of guys out there who have the potential to do very well on Monday.”
British GT returns to Oulton Park for its traditional pair of one-hour bank holiday races this Monday.