A late lap from George Murrells secured pole position in Optimum Motorsport's Ginetta G55 GT3 for the third round of the Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship.
Murrells – co-driving with Lee Mowle – had to battle against continuing gearbox problems during the session, spending the opening minutes gathering data on a problematic flat-shift system that caused the car to momentarily cut out.
With no short term fix in sight, Murrells hoping for a fix in time for the next round of the championship at best, the flat-shift was disengaged as Mowle stepped into the car. Despite the problem Murrells had put the car on pole during his opening ten minute stint with a time that proved surprisingly stubborn at the top of the times.
Initially fastest by nearly 2.5 seconds few of the normal top drivers were able to make an impression in a session was falling in favour of the Class Two and Three cars behind Murrells' Ginetta. The Class Three Invitation FF Corse Ferrari of Jaques Dyver and Charlie Hollings ran second ahead of the fight for Class Two supremacy, the orange Team Tiger Marcos Mantis ahead of Motionsport's Ferrari 458.
The Rapier SR2 of Mike Millard and Ian Heward made some impression on Murrells' advantage , cleaving a second off the margin as it filled the void between the Ginetta and Ferrari in second.
That remained the situation until the faster drivers in the remaining Class One cars began their charge towards pole position after relatively quiet starts to the session.
The SB Race Engineering Ferrari of Paul Bailey and Andy Schulz continued their early season pace by briefly taking provisional pole position by 0.488 seconds. However, the Neil Garner Motorsport Mosler soon replaced them atop the timesheets by over half a second.
Just the race for pole position – if that's not an oxymoron – was heating up the action was interrupted by a red flag to allow for recovery of the spun Ultima at the esses.
With just ten minutes remaining – the session time reset with the loss of only a few minutes – the top four Class One cars went out for pole position. Just as in the opening stint at of the race at Donington Park it was a fight between the Mosler, Schulz and Bailey's Ferrari, the Rapier and the Optimum Ginetta.
Schulz and the Ferrari jumped to pole, beating the pre-interruption time by over a second. Schulz, who qualified second for both of the first two races of the season, appeared to have taken an enormous step towards pole position as he improved his time to 1:51.095 to lead the session by well over a second from the Mike Millard piloted Rapier. Millard replied with his own time to take pole, squeezing out Schulz by just four hundredths of a second. However, with his final lap of the session Murrells retook the pole position he had held earlier, lapping the Norfolk circuit in 1:50.769 making him the first man to dip into the 1:50s. He was only prevented from being the only man beneath that time by a last gasp effort from Javier Morcillo in the Mosler as the Spaniard – pole sitter for both races so far this year – moved to just 0.058 of the pole time.
Morcillo's late improvement meant that the top four were covered by 0.326 seconds, a promise of battle to be rejoined at the start of the three hour race.
Behind the lead quartet the Stark Racing Ginetta – another GT3-spec G55 – was fifth, but four seconds adrift of the lead battle.
Chris Beighton and Jon Finnemore won the battle of the Marcos Mantises in Class Two. The Team Tiger duo – despite an engine change after a failure in Friday's testing sessions – beat the Topcats Racing car of Owen O'Neill and Neil Huggins. The second Topcats entry – driven by husband and wife team owners Warren and Charlotte Gilbert will line up fourth in class behind the best non-Marcos in Motionsport's Ferrari 458.
Dyver and Hollings Ferrari, by virtue of their early lap led Class Three ahead of the Webb family crewed Ginetta, and the Bullrun Lotus Evora.
Class Four pole went to the Strata21 Porsche – now white after debuting in yellow at Donington Park – of Tom Jones, Adam Sharpe and Dave Pittard, beating the Lotus Elise of British GT Championship driver Michael Caine and Steve Guglielmi.