Benji Hetherington and Allan Simonsen shared the first two pole positions of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship between them at Oulton Park.
After a late, late confirmation in the second Mercedes SLS for series debutants Fortec Motorsport alongside Jason Minshaw Hetherington surprised the paddock by taking pole position for Monday’s season opener. In the session – largely given over to the Am half of the driver combinations – Hetherington took pole with a lap of 1:37.098 with his final lap in a session interrupted by a lengthy red flag before a flying lap had been completed.
In separate incidents Matt Smith and Roger Wills both spun and crashed. GT4 racer Smith’s accident was the more damaging as he spun the Redgate/Lifetime Racing Ginetta G50 exiting Druids, though both his car and Wills’ United Autosports McLaren returned to the paddock on flatbed trucks.
After a second land-rush exit from the pit lane it was a largely Porsche only battle for the lead with Trackspeed’s Jon Minshaw (Jason’s brother) and Ahmad Al Harthy for Motorbase swapping the top times in the opening two laps.
Minshaw took back pole, Al Harthy improving his own time but remaining in second place. With 90 seconds of the session still remaining Minshaw returned to the pits, and despite the scraps of time remaining was bundled down to fourth by late improvements, Hetherington taking pole with Vita4One Team Italy man Jay Palmer and Al Harthy taking second and third respectively.
Derek Johnston was fifth fastest for MTECH with soloist Jody Fannin sixth in his JRM Racing run Nissan GT-R. The Jones brothers took seventh with their final lap making them the best McLaren MP4-12C GT3 in the field.
Voluntarily ending the session early was not such a hindrance in the more clinical second qualifying session, Simonsen needing only four laps to set a blazing pace at 1:34.589 to take pole in the Rosso Verde run Ferrari he shares with Hector Lester.
The Dane – in a 2011-spec car, performance balanced separately to the newer Ferraris elsewhere on the grid – was chased to pole by Nick Tandy, the Porsche works driver sharing the #31 Trackspeed car with David Ashburn. Jonny Adam and Matt Griffin will share the second of the grid for the Monday afternoon second race.
Richard Westbrook an early featured performer in the session after showing the way around the first two flying laps – Simonsen a lap behind – ended fifth fastest.
After topping both practice sessions Declan Jones completed a sweep on his British GT debut by taking GT4 pole for Century Motorsport. His time of 1:44.729 was nearly three seconds faster than Complete Racing’s Tom Wilson, with APO Sport’s James May another three seconds adrift in third. Wilson’s teammate Steve Chaplin was the man to take advantage of Jones’ absence from the first qualifying session to take pole position in the Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
With no racing action at Oulton Park on Easter Sunday both races takes place on Monday. theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have full – live – coverage of both events to start off the Avon Tyres British GT Championship.