Javier Morcillo began the 2012 Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship in the best possible fashion, taking pole position away from qualifying for the series' first round at Silverstone.
The off-season has brought change for Morcillo – who dominated qualifying in the early part of last season, scoring four consecutive poles to start the year – and the Neil Garner Motorsport run team. Paul White, of Mosler rivals Strata 21, has joined Morcillo and Manuel Cintrano over the winter, creating a three-strong team on the no.6 car.
With three drivers to qualify Morcillo was the final man in the car, taking the top spot away from the Paul Bailey and Andy Schulz crewed Ferrari 430. Over the remaining 16 minutes the time to beat fell by a second from 2:04.402 to Morcillo's final time of 2:03.473.
“We haven't tested the car properly,” Morcillo told The Checkered Flag. “Yesterday we didn't have enough laps to learn anything. So the car was an unknown and then we were surprised by the pace of the black Ferrari so we had to really work on a lap time which was very exciting. I enjoyed it a lot, there were a couple of laps where I was really over the edge.”
The “black Ferrari”, Andy Schulz at the wheel for the closing stages, fell short of reclaiming pole by just a tenth of a second. The third man in the pole battle was Mike Millard, driving the newly re-liveried Rapier SR2, now in the colours made famous by Martini backed entries.
Millard, who shone in the summer races of the 2011 season at Spa-Francorchamps and Castle Combe, spent most of the 35 minute session on top of the scoring charts as the Northamptonshire air heated up. Millard took the first stint in the car, before handing over to teammate Ian Heward.
During Heward's tenure in the car the lead duo opened up a six second gap as their fastest drivers fought for top top spot. The quest for pole forced Millard back out for the closing ten minutes, slicing his deficit to pole position to under 1.5 seconds, though time ran out for Millard to put the car on the front row.
Behind the lead trio, and the best of the Class Two runners, was the best of Topcats Racing Marcos Mantis, under the control of Owen O'Neill and Neil Huggins. The orange and grey machine headed three Marcos', the Team Tiger entry ahead of the other Topcats entry, driver Kyle Tilley lifting the car into the top ten in the closing stages.
Also making late improvements was Martin Byford in the Bullrun Lotus Evora, one of several new cars for the 2012 season. Byford, who closed out last season driving in the British Touring Car Championship, put the Evora into ninth, best of the non-invitation Class Three cars. Motionsport's Simon Phillips and Pete Storey, their Ferrari 458 another new arrival for the 2012 campaign rounded out the top ten after being among the early pacesetters.
The Bullrun team, completed by David Green and Richard Adams, are taking a stepping into the unknown in the three hour race as Byford said after qualifying; “the problem we've had is the testing we have had has been very, very broken up with short sessions at circuits with red flags so none of us has had more than about eight consecutive laps in the car so we're all very fresh to it all which isn't going to help today. We're learning about the car quite quickly, at the moment the car is 90% of where we want it to be, the rest is fine tuning and tweeking.”
In their Chevron GR8 Jensen Lunn and Mark Steward topped Class Four, 16th overall of the 21 cars that set a time, the slowest of which was the only car to hit trouble, the Motionsport Lotus Elise of Bens Gower and Pitch bringing out yellow flags with an off at Copse.