Team Parker Racing’s Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris secured their third British GT pole position of the season at Silverstone earlier today after narrowly beating Barwell Motorsport’s Liam Griffin and Alexander Sims. Meanwhile, in GT4, Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse pairing Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell claimed theirs and the McLaren 570S’s maiden class pole.
GT3: 0.071s separates Bentley and Lamborghini
Despite the senior class featuring its biggest entry of the season the fight for pole boiled down to just two crews. That 0.071s separated the combined times of Parfitt Jnr/Morris and Griffin/Sims owed everything to how competitive this year’s championship has become.
Both the Am and Pro sessions featured see-saw battles between the respective drivers, but it was Parfitt Jnr who laid the foundations for pole by eventually besting Griffin by only 0.052s after both had provisionally occupied top spot.
Sims would therefore require a lap half a tenth quicker than Morris’ best to wrestle pole away, and following the first runs he looked to have achieved just that after turning his deficit into a 0.113s advantage. Morris wasn’t done though and hit back next time around to record the fastest lap of the session – 2m00.082s – and seal pole for he and Parfitt Jnr.
However, their 20-second pit-stop success penalty for winning race two at Oulton Park a fortnight ago means nothing is assured tomorrow.
So competitive were the Pros that the quickest four drivers recorded times within six hundredths of a second of each other. One of those was championship leader Jonny Adam who, along with TF Sport co-driver Derek Johnston, leapt from fifth to third in the second session.
The pair were 0.5s shy of the leading Bentley’s combined pole time and a similar amount clear of the similar Beechdean AMR V12 Vantage GT3 that Andrew Howard had initially qualified seventh before Ross Gunn jumped aboard.
Alasdair McCaig and Rob Bell’s Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 650S GT3 starts fifth after finishing 0.025s behind Howard and Gunn, while Ian Loggie and Callum MacLeod completed the top-six in the second Team Parker Bentley.
Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne were a further 0.137s back in the AmDTuning.com BMW Z4 GT3 that finished second at Silverstone last season, one place clear of Marco Attard and Adam Carroll in the new FF Corse Ferrari 488 that the Northern Irishman lapped just 0.025s slower than Morris’ benchmark.
It was a surprise to see the second Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen, who qualified on pole at Oulton Park, down in 10th, while Will Moore and Ryan Ratcliffe had been third after the Am session before slipping to 12th.
Seb Morris, #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3: “Team Parker have done an amazing job to turn our fortunes around because, if I’m honest, we weren’t in a good place during Friday’s test. But the changes we made have really worked. The Bentley’s not been as strong in other championships this year so it’s great that our teamwork has helped bring it along in British GT. Qualifying wasn’t perfect; I didn’t bring in the front tyres as much as I could so struggled through sector one before hooking it up over the second half. It was the other way around on the second lap so, somewhere in between, there’s a perfect time! Fortunately the second run was just good enough for pole.”
Alexander Sims, #6 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “There wasn’t a huge difference between my first and second laps so I couldn’t have found much more time. I was quite happy, to be honest! You couldn’t find two more different cars than the BMW M6 I’ve driven for most of this year and the Lamborghini here; they’re different philosophies and you make the lap time in different ways. So it’s interesting comparing the two but, in the end, it’s actually not too difficult swapping between them. Traffic will be crucial tomorrow. That’s where the race will be won and lost rather than the success penalties other cars are carrying.”
GT4: Record GT4 entry no match for Haggerty and Mitchell’s McLaren
In stark contrast to its senior counterpart the result of GT4 qualifying was never in doubt after the opening 10-minute session. Aston Martin dominated both free practice sessions but had no answer for Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse pairing Mitchell and Haggerty who combined beautifully to secure the McLaren 570S’s maiden pole position.
Mitchell was the only driver to dip below the 2m13s barrier in the first session, beating the second placed Beechdean AMR Vantage of Jack Bartholomew by 0.489s. Academy Motorsport’s Dennis Strandberg was next up in the similar Academy Motorsport Aston, which was making its first British GT4 appearance since clinching the Teams’ championship at Donington last season.
That meant Jordan Albert had to find almost half a second if he was to topple the McLaren pairing. But it was actually Haggerty who lapped that much quicker again to ultimately seal a dominant first pole for the team and McLaren by 1.090s.
On top of it being both drivers’, the team’s and car’s first pole, Mitchell – aged 16 years and 100 days – also became the youngest driver to score a British GT pole position.
Albert and Bartholomew line up alongside the McLaren duo with Strandberg and Matt Nicoll-Jones’ Academy Vantage less than two tenths further back in third.
Alex Reed and Joey Foster’s Lanan Racing Ginetta starts fourth ahead of the FP1 pace-setting Generation AMR Macmillan Racing Aston Martin driven by Matty Graham and Jack Mitchell. A disappointing showing from championship leaders Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson resulted in only sixth for a crew bidding to win their fourth British GT race of the season, while the first of the GT4 European Series entries – Ricardo van der Ende and Bernard van Oranje’s Ekris M4 – completed the top-seven qualifiers.
GPRM’s Toyota GT86 stopped out on track during the second session but still starts seventh of the British GT runners in 11th overall, one place ahead of Marcus Hoggarth and Abbie Eaton’s Ebor GT Maserati.
Tomorrow’s three-hour, 500-kilometre British race gets underway at 12:50 and is live on Motors TV.
Sandy Mitchell, #59 Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S GT4: “I managed to get a clear track, which wasn’t easy with so many cars, and then just focused on putting the sectors together. Fortunately I hooked them up and got a lap time out of it! The 570S certainly seems better suited to Silverstone than somewhere like Oulton but we’ve actually had decent pace all year. We’ve just been missing that crucial piece of luck. So far so good this weekend.”
Ciaran Haggerty, #59 Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S GT4: “We needed everything to come together and that’s so far been the case this weekend. We’ve unlocked some performance over the past couple of weekends so the car’s been getting better and better and we’ve also got on top of what it’s capable of. It’s a combination of everything, really. Our pace on used tyres over a long run looks good so we’re feeling confident.”
Jordan Albert, #407 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4: “Oulton wasn’t the best of weekends for us so we had to make the most of our chance here, especially as the Aston is so strong in a straight line. We found a good balance in practice and thought we’d be near the front in qualifying, which is exactly where we ended up! The McLaren’s one-lap pace looks really quick but over a stint we’re feeling confident. Half the battle tomorrow will be getting to the finish. Such a big grid makes it that bit trickier so consistency will be key.”