Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard claimed the top spot in the first Avon Tyres British GT Championship practice session on a Donington track that went from wet to dry in the space of an hour and saw the Bronze only session log most of the fastest times.
At the start of the session in a blowy and wet Donington Park, it was Mike Simpson in the #32 Team LNT Ginetta G55 GT3 that set the first really competitive time with a 1:43.308 to go more than one second faster than Alexander Sims who set the first time of the day.
From then on almost every lap saw drivers make significant improvements with Phil Keen in the Team Russia By Barwell Racing with Demon Tweeks BMW knocking almost a full second off the fastest time when he broke into the 1:42s, followed quickly behind by Matt Bell who recorded a 1:42.947.
In the early stages of the GT4 class, it was very much the Ginetta show as Luke Davenport in the Tolman Motorsport G55 set a 1:53.616 to lead a chain of Ginettas including that of Nathan Freke who is driving the second Century Motorsport car.
Getting towards the halfway point of the session, the times kept falling on a track now drying rather quickly but it was Matt Bell, who set a 1:41.857, who ruled the roost over the other GT3 teams as no one could get the P1 time down.
Other people were making moves further down the order, notably Benny Simonsen who – in the space of a couple of laps – moved up from the near enough the bottom of the GT3 class to place his Rosso Verde Ferrari in fourth.
That was the last of the real movers in the Pro/Am joint session as a red flag in the dying minutes after Tim Eakin beached the UltraTek Lotus in the gravel at McLeans.
After the Lotus was dragged out of the gravel it was time for the amateur only session and with a dry line now as plainly obvious as the nose on your face, the times in GT3 and GT4 were quickly falling.
That started with Rick Parfitt moving the #44 Team LNT Ginetta from 11th to 4th signalling to the rest of the paddock that they should be discounted at everyone else’s peril.
His rapid moves up the timing screens coincided with Andrew Howard doing near enough the same thing in the #007 Aston Martin Vantage, quickly finding himself behind Parfitt in fifth place.
At that point it was GT4 that really lit up as Paul McNeilly in the Fox Motorsport machine moved up to second place with Graham Johnson in the PMW Expo Racing car and Graham Coomes in the AmDTuning.com Porsche both improving their own times to seat themselves in third and fourth.
Coomes then hustled the Porsche up to 2nd but couldn’t close in on Oz Yusuf in first place as he lowered the ISSY Racing Lotus’s time to 1:50.366 – almost two seconds faster than the Porsche man.
Will Moore in the #61 Academy Motorsport Aston Martin wasn’t going down without a challenge though and he broke out of the 1:50s to set a 1:49.932. However, as the chequered flag flew Yusuf set the track on fire (metaphorically) and clocked a 1:44.787 to go three seconds faster than Richard Williams in the GPRM Toyota GT86 with Coomes finishing third and Anna Walewska setting a storming time to take the University of Bolton Ginetta into fourth.
In GT3 and a man also metaphorically setting the track on fire was the already mentioned Andrew Howard. Look to his name on the timing screens and all you would see is purple as he set fastest sector after fastest sector to claim top spot and a 1:37.733 – three seconds faster than Andrew Jarman who finished with a 1:40.960.
Third place went to Salih Yoluc in the VonRyan Racing McLaren with Jon Minshaw finishing fourth and championship contender Marco Attard parking the Ecurie Ecosse BMW in fifth.