The Ecurie Ecosse BMW and the ‘baby’ Beechdean Aston Martin Vantage have scored the GT3 and GT4 poles respectively for tomorrow’s two hour Avon Tyres British GT Championship race at Rockingham.
With a Pro and an Am qualifying for both category, the times from both drivers were combined to find the overall grid for the race – just one, rather than the pair of races we had at Oulton Park – which threw up a lot of late action.
Starting with GT3, it was Andrew Watson in the VonRyan Racing McLaren who was fastest in the first part of GT3 qualifying setting a time of 1:23.914 to see him leap to the head of the field.
However, come the session for the Pro drivers Ross Wylie couldn’t keep up the same pace in the 650S and had to settle for seventh place on the grid.
Indeed, the lead was shared between Alexander Sims in the BMW and Jonny Adam in the #007 Beecdean Aston Martin GT3. Adam took an early lead with a storming time – Adam being the first man to break into the 1:22s. But Sims was a lot faster, his time of 1:22.280 combined with team mate Marco Attard’s time to give an aggregated time of 2:46.786.
Sims said after qualifying: “It was a very, very good lap. We didn’t expect to see that sort of pace from practice quite honestly but we made good improvements to the car and, from my side at least, I don’t think I left anything on the table. I was still surprised that some drivers weren’t as close as they had been, whether they had not so perfect runs that might have been the reason. Still it was just qualifying and we’ve got to race well tomorrow.”
The BMW’s time couldn’t be bettered by the Beechdean boys who ended up being roughly four-tenths behind with a 2:47.197 even with team boss Andrew Howard finishing the first part of qualifying in fourth place.
Third was another Aston Martin, the Oman Racing Team entry of Daniel Lloyd and Ahmad Al Harthy who had a pretty sizeable gap between them and second place, with a combined time of 2:47.811. However, they did manage to sneak the third by a tenth as the TF Sport car of Derek Johnston and Matt Bell could only attain a 2:47.969.
Fifth was the second Oman Racing Team entry of Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher. While they were never going to trouble the top of the times, they put two respectable laps together to ensure that they have a strong chance of a podium come the end of the race.
Into GT4 and no doubt utilising all the experience gained from the Britcar 24 Hours at Silverstone last weekend were Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn. They both set the fastest laps in their respective sessions to combine for a pole setting time of 3:00.020 and shut out the GPRM Toyota GT86.
Unfortunately for the GPRM pairing of Richard Williams and Stefan Hodgetts, they couldn’t capitalise on a strong opening lap by Hodgetts in the Pro session as the car pulled off coming onto the School Straight so they couldn’t continue to pressure the Beechdean crew.
Thankfully, they are starting on the front row anyway as rivals behind couldn’t make the most of the early retirement and get themselves alongside the Aston Martin.
So, starting third – half a second down on the Toyota on aggregate – is the Academy Motorsport Aston Martin of Will Moore & Dennis Strandberg who set a time of 3:01.885.
That was only just enough to put them ahead of the Fox Motorsport Ginetta of Paul McNeilly and Jamie Stanley, they both combined for a time of 3:01.909 to leave them about two hundredths of a second back.
Only four hundredths of a second behind them – showing just how close this session was – you can find the ISSY Racing Lotus Evora of Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw who set a 3:01.944 to put them in fifth place – and in a two hour race that might be good enough for a win or at least a podium.
Jamie Chadwick said: “I didn’t know how it was going to pan out because there were yellow flags out at turn two for a while so I didn’t want to work the tyres too hard on those laps where I couldn’t put a time in so I waited and waited and even on my fast lap I had traffic but I was delighted with being able to get a decent time and then box. When I came in and I was P1 I was happy with what I had which was more than I expected.”
The two hour Avon Tyres British GT race gets underway tomorrow at 13:25 with live coverage on www.TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk.