Old and new split qualifying honours for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Oulton Park as the bumper grid set the grid for Monday's (April 25) opening races of the year.
The fastest time in the first 15 minute session, setting the grid for the first of Monday's 60-minute races went to Michael Lyons in the Scuderia Vittoria entered Ferrari 458 – announcing the impact of Ferrari's new GT racer on the British series at the first time of asking. Lyons described his quickest lap – set on the fourth of five laps – as “scrappy” in a session where the faster GT3 cars had to set their times amongst the traffic of a 25 car grid on Oulton Park's 2.7 mile International circuit.
Across the two sessions Lyons' pole was a rare bright sport of any of the Ferrari fielding teams. Lyons' co-driver Charles Bateman had his time deleted from the session, dropping the car from what would have been third on the grid. MTECH pairing Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron, in the only other 458 present for the weekend, didn't run a lap until the second session, Griffin qualifying a creditable sixth fastest (which became fifth with Bateman's exclusion).
The four teams – CRS Racing, Predator CCTV, Chad Racing and Rosso Verde – running the old 430 Scuderia model in the top class were mostly to end the session in the lower reaches of the top ten at best, though Allan Simonsen's second fastest time in the second session is a very notable exception. CRS Racing, returning to the British Championship for the first time since 2008, fared a best of sixth, with Glynn Geddie the man at the wheel in qualifying for race one.
With the Ferrari's shoved down the order much of the void was filled by the new and returning cars and teams for 2011.
The Jones brothers' Mercedes will line up third for the season opener, after David Jones' effort gave it the starting position one place ahead of the United Autosports Audi R8 LMS driven by Michael Gausch in the timetrials. Gausch's co-driver Matt Bell replied with his own fourth fastest time when he got to tackle the Oulton Park circuit. Also in the top five for both races will be the Beechdean Aston Martin, Andrew Howard and Jonathan Adam both setting the fifth best lap time.
The other constant in the top echelons of the timesheets were the Trackspeed Porsches. Reigning champion David Ashburn put the no.1 car second on the grid for race one before Richard Westbrook went one better for race two clocking the fastest time of the day (1:36.505). The sister 997 GT3 R of Gregor Fiskin and Tim Bridgman will take the green flag for the two races in seventh and twelfth respecitively.
“I really had to push,” Westbrook said. “David did a superb job to get second on the grid for race one and the car felt really good when I went out. The tyres came in on the second lap and I knew I had to push. I really hit the sweet spot with the tyres on my best lap and there was some luck in that respect, but you have to take any luck that comes your way. We've got to stay out of trouble and get a good points haul on Monday.”
GT4 poles were split between the ABG Motorsport KTM X-Bow of Peter Belshaw and the Scuderia Vittoria Ginetta G50 of Peter McDonald. The two cars locked out the front row for both races, Marcus Clutton second fastest in the KTM for race two, ex-Caterham and G50 Cup driver Dan Denis putting the Scuderia Vittoria car on the front row for race one.
The entrants in the two single car classes fared very differently. The GT3B class MTECH Ferrari f40 of John Dhillon and Aaron Scott made little impression on even the slower cars of the premier class. The works backed Chevron GR8 of Anthony Reid and Jordan Witt, however, picked up where it left off last season in bothering the main GT3 runners.
Indeed it outqualified several GT3 class machines including a number of Ginetta G55 driven by various GT and Touring Car alumni including Stefan Hodgetts, Colin White and Andrew Jordan – the BTCC driver replacing Tom Sharp from the provisional entry list aboard the Team LNT entered car.