Javier Morcillo kept up his 100% record in qualifying, adding a third British Endurance Championship pole position to his personal tally. However, the biggest impact at the head of the field was the premature end of the MJC Ferrari.
The 40 minute session took place on a drying track – during the opening laps several teams shed the wet tyres they had gone out on for a set of slick tyres as conditions continued improve throughout the session.
With the improving conditions came a steady (and occasionally dramatic) of the time occupying the provisional pole spot. The initial pace (set by the Orbital Sound Lotus of Chris Headlam and Jamie Stanley) was 1:21.894, but by the end of the session the best time had dropped to just 66 seconds and all but one of the 39 car field had eclipsed the early marker.
The leaders of the charge down the times were the Azteca Motorsport Mosler and the Race 4 Slovakia Praga R4S shared by Dick Kventnansky and Martin Sedlak, the team one of a handful doubling up in entering the Britcar race and the Dutch Supercar Challenge that is sharing the Donington Park paddock this weekend.
The Azteca team were the first below the 70 second barrier after less than ten minutes of the session, and as other teams, cars and drivers improved the session entered its second half with the top six split by just 0.577 seconds, led by the GT3 Racing Dodge Viper. Also in the lead group were the Strata 21 Mosler, the Aquila CR1 – on its first Britcar outing this year – and the Brinkman Motorsport Audi R8 LMS, another of the continental additions to the BEC grid.
The decisive lap came with 14 minutes left, Morcillo putting the Mosler round the 1.98mile track in 1:07.218, putting the no.3 car at the top of the leaderboard, later improving to 1:06.798 in the closing moments of the session.
“Totally trouble free and just a very good qualifying,” assessed Morcillo. “The only difficulty was finding a clear lap, which I only managed once and that was like the last lap and I was very relieved to find one clear lap. I feel that times could have been a little bit better but I didn't know when I was going to have another clear lap.”
The Race 4 Slovakia improved to keep second place, though their lap (1:08.082) was still over a second shy of the pole marker. The Eclipse Motorsport Ferrari will line up third, sharing the second row with the Dodge Viper.
MJC will not be on the grid for tomorrow's four hour race. The car started the session late after driveshaft problems and left the team scrambling to fit enough laps for their three drivers, John Gaw joining regulars Witt Gamski and Keith Robinson. However, with Robinson in the car, the engine expired in dramatic fashion, returning to the pits under a pall of smoke. It was the team's first engine problem in several years, having had the current car since the start of 2010.
A disappointed Robinson reported that he knew the engine was blowing up, though the team had hoped the motor would survive the weekend, before going back to Michelotto on Monday.
“It's such a pity because we want to beat them,” Morcillo – one of MJC's chief title rivals – said. “We don't want to see them watching our race so first of all it's a big big disappointment to see them out of the race. I think our strategy is exactly the same – the other Ferrari is going to be very competitive as well and no we have to look at our strategy just for our car – we have to try and make the four hours as fast as we can.”
Production pole went to Rockingham winners Intersport easily – three places and nearly two seconds ahead of the Reflex Racing Ginetta of Peter and Matt Smith. Production Two pole, likewise went to Rockingham victors ING Sport and Ian Lawson and Anthony Wilds.
The BEC race will be four hours long, with a neutralised period at half way during which the Production runners will be flagged off the track. This period, and how the GT teams base their strategy around could be vital in deciding the overall winner. As could the weather, with more rain threatened during the weekend.