Ecurie Ecosse will start from Avon Tyres British GT Championship pole position for the first time after Olly Bryant set the fastest lap in qualifying for the three hour Silverstone 500 race.
The 45 minute session only truly came to life in the final ten minutes with Bryant and the team taking advantage of a quieter track to the set time that would stand up to examination in the final minutes of the session.
Bryant, like many of the other ‘pro’ drivers in the field, were sent out at the start of the 45 minutes to set some banker laps before turning their cars over to their less experienced co-drivers (Marco Attard in the case of Bryant’s BMW Z4 GT3) for much of the session. After those early exchanges it was a familiar story with a pair of Trackspeed Porsches in first and second Phil Keen having lapped quicker than Richard Westbrook in the opening minutes to lead into the de facto lull with a lap of 2:02.944.
With the clock ticking down and a majority of the near 50 car field in the pits Bryant and the Ecurie Ecosse team took the decision to go out on track and while the gained a clear(er) track that he utilised to set a time of 2:02.600 they were also left with a nervous wait as others returned to the track for flying laps in the final minutes of the session.
Bryant told theCheckeredFlag.co.uk “At the start I went out to have a first run on some new tyres and get a feel for it after we made a few changes after practice. The car felt much better and I knew there was more time in it. Then it was a case of getting Marco out again and familiar because he had a few techniques he wanted to work on. When I got back and managed to find some space the lap went really well, there were no issues and the car went really well. I didn’t expect to stay at the front. I thought at end when the track was quiet a few people would have pipped us.”
Matteo Bobbi followed Bryant towards the top, momentarily taking second in the Vita4One Team Italy he shares with Jay Palmer. However the Italian was soon bundled back into the midst of a top ten that finished the session covered by a little over eight tenths of a second.
Phil Keen took second, only to be pushed into fourth in the final standings by his Trackspeed teammates with Nick Tandy taking the spot on the outside of the front row in the championship leading #31 Porsche while Richard Westbrook set the third fastest time in the #32, tartan liveried, Trackspeed entry.
Joe Osborne took fifth on a track that suits the high-speed cornering strengths of the BMW Z4 GT3, a fact shown further by the sister 888Optimum car of Steve Tandy and Dan Brown ending the session seventh, the pair of them sandwiching the Bobbi/Palmer Ferrari in the session’s final standings.
“We’re not very quick on the straights,” Bryant admitted the weaknesses of the car, “and there’s a lot of straights here but fortunately there’s a lot of high speed corners as well where the car is really good. It’s no so stop-start like Rockingham where the Porsche has a clear advantage because of the traction. Here as long as we can carry the speed and momentum through the corners we can deliver a good lap time but as the race goes on and the tyres go off it’s not so easy to keep delivering the same lap time because we’re slow on the straights no matter what happens, so as our tyres go off we have to maximise looking after the car and carrying corner speed otherside the lap time will suffer as a result.”
The Rosso Verde Ferrari, piloted on its best lap by Allan Simonsen, the Beechdean Aston Martin and the #14 Fortec Motorsports Mercedes SLS completed the top ten.
The story of the session in GT4 followed a similar pattern with one team leading for the bulk of the time before a rapid trading of times in the final dozen minutes.
One of the eight teams to join the British GT field to contest the Avon Tyres GT4 Trophy, the #408 Pro Sport Performance Porsche of Joerg Viebahn and Adam Christodoulou had led for much of the session, only losing the best time in class with 13 minutes to go before going on to fall to fifth in the class.
The only regular British GT competitor in the top five was the Redgate/Lifetime Racing Ginetta G50 of Matt Smith and Dan Eagling, with Rockingham polesitter Eagling responsible for the time that initially ended the Porsche squad’s monopoly on top spot. However pole in class fell to the Ekris run BMW M3 GT4 of Ricardo van der Ende with a lap of 2:14.989.
Behind Eagling’s Ginetta will line up the better of the two Las Moras run Chevolet Camaro SS GT4 shared by Luc Braams and Duncan Huisman with the second of Ekris’ orange BMW’s fourth in class. The current class leaders in British GT – Zoe Wenham and Declan Jones for Century Motorsport will start from sixth in class – 39th overall on the bumper grid for the weekend.
The three hour race – the longest of the British GT season is scheduled to start at 1pm tomorrow (May 26).