After a strong start to the day in leading the opening practice session Matt Griffin again showed the speed of the MTECH Ferrari 458 GT3 in taking pole position for the three hour Avon Tyres British GT Championship race at Silverstone.
The 45-minute session, designed to cater for the team running three drivers for the longest race of the season, was a relatively quiet affair for its majority with Riki Christodoulou and the Team WFR Ginetta G55 GT3 holding provisional pole after a lap of 2:04.148 after just ten minutes of the session.
It was a bitter sweet session for the quartet of Ginettas in the premier class. The Stark by Hepworth car had been ruled out of the session with a broken clutch but Christodoulou and Team LNT’s Mike Simpson propelled their examples into the battle for pole. While Riki’s time held pole Simpson, driving with Ginetta chairman Lawrence Tomlinson, put his orange car as far up the order as third fastest before the battle for pole really began with just a dozen minutes left in the session.
“This morning it was just like a new car,” Christodoulou described his G55. “Overall I think it was decent but it was laps one and two that were original laps I was going for. The first one got messed up with a gear change on the exit of Maggotts and Becketts. We’ve got an upshift problem where it hits the limiter and doesn’t select gear. We had it last week when we went testing and again today. Unfortunately it always happens when you least want it after you think ‘I’ve nailed that corner’ then bam and that lap was screwed then the next lap Zoe Wenham was pissing out water. I was thinking ‘why have I got oversteer already?’”
“I thought my quickest lap was scrappy so that’s why I’m happy but I’m a bit cheesed off thinking there was that little bit more and my times could have matched the front row but you don’t get points for pole so we’ll see tomorrow.”
After most teams ran the middle part of the session with their gentlemen drivers behind the wheel another round of pitstops for the pros to climb aboard predictably brought a flurry of improvements.
John Gaw climbed up to fifth place in the Cyber Racing Aston Martin Vantage, followed by Joe Osborne in the #32 Trackspeed Porsche that paced the second of the earlier practice sessions.
However, both were shuffled down when Matt Griffin and Jonny Adam moved into first and second. Adam was the first man under 2:04 in the session, going two tenths faster than Christodoulou only to have Matt Griffin take another tenth of a second off the best time to put the Ferrari he shares with Duncan Cameron on pole.
After setting their respective laps both men continued to circulate, with Matt Bell, fifth fastest for Snetterton winners United Autosports the other man who could realistically challenge for pole position in the closing minutes.
Griffin threatened to extend his lead following on from his fastest lap with a personal best time in the first sector of the Silverstone lap only to make a mistake, forcing him to abort the lap. The Irishman pitted with the flying of the checkered flag imminent, leaving Adam and Bell on track with the potential to steal pole away, but both men took to the pitlane to end their sessions rather than pass below the checkered flag, ensuring Griffin took pole position.
“I did my lap time,” Griffin told The Checkered Flag, “then I went for another lap immediately and I was actually up in the first sector on that lap, then I made a slight mistake in the last corner of the new corner where I ran a bit wide an exceeded the track limits so immediately I backed off and made sure that sector was slow. After that the tyres had just gone over, I did try one more lap but the tyres had gone at that point.”
He continued; “my first run we had P2, it wasn’t quite perfect and I think we were carrying a bit too much fuel as well so we did some fuel burning laps and just put it all together on my second run and grabbed pole which is great. For a three hour race maybe it doesn’t mean as much as it normally would but at this point in the championship it’s a big confidence boost to all the guys and they really gave a very good car today.”
Bell and Charles Bateman were fifth fastest for United Autosports behind the Christodoulou driven Ginetta G55 and the #31 Trackspeed Porsche of David Ashburn - just half a point ahead of polemen Griffin and Cameron in the points standings – and Phil Keen. Team LNT were sixth fastest through Mike Simpson, ahead of Gaw’s Joe Osborne’s #32 Porsche the RJN Motorsport Nissan GT-R and the Invitation Class Chevron GT3 of Jordan Witt and Anthony Reid.
Despite losing a third of the session after contact from the Beechdean Aston Martin – “under yellows” according to Warren Hughes – the Team WFR Ginetta G50 will start on pole in the GT4 class, the similar APO Sport car second fastest.
It was a 1-2-3-4 for the Ginetta squads, aided by a small fire in second practice that knock the Jota Mazda out of the qualifying fight. However, they should return for the race. Century Motorsport, with Zoe Wenham the only still in a title chase – trying to deprive the Team WFR squad – endured a difficult session, their G50 dropping water as the engine overheated, forcing Wenham to stop on track.
The Checkered Flag will have live coverage of the three hour, starting at 11:40am tomorrow (Sunday September 9).