The visitors have triumphed in the first clash of the British Endurance Championship race weekend at Brands Hatch on the Grand Prix circuit. The top time as set by Tom Onslow-Cole, a 1:26.697 came with thirteen minutes left on the clock of the 45 minute session and cemented an all-Aston Martin front row with the Bilstein liveried, Strata 21 entered Vantage GT3 heading the pile. Onslow-Cole is sharing with the car owner, Paul White and the Aston Martin boss, John Gaw.
Onslow-Cole said he was delighted to have the chance to race in a GT3 machine, “Its a really incredible feeling. I have been trying to do a competitive run in the GT3 Aston for a quite a while. To come cold, out of the box with no testing and do that in qualifying is amazing.
The times are really close, we have the Scuderia Vittoria (Horsepower Racing) car there and the Mosler is really close. I can now just take what I learned in qualifying and maybe up the pace a bit in the race.”
First to strike was the #8 Rapier SR2 entered by Michael Millard though by the time the chequered flag was flown, the prototype-in-all-but-name was in a somewhat disappointing eighth place and last of the class 1 pack. The Rapier gave way to our eventual second place qualifier, the Horsepower Racing/Scuderia Vittoria Aston Martin driven by Paul Bailey and Andy Schultz who also had a session which didn’t go so smoothly.
After holding pole for the majority of the first half of the session, the #28 machine lost out to the #007 by a fraction of a second. To be precise the margin of superiority was 0.019 seconds, though Onslow-Cole would improve again to cement his top spot. The eventual split was a mere 0.113 seconds, the top three were covered by only 0.225. Andy Schultz went back out to try and wrestle the top spot back but ended up bouncing off of the armco at Surtees.
The mistake, a rare thing for Schutz, was born of impatience. He was stuck behind the #46 entry coming through the bowl section of Indy circuit and made a dive up the inside at Surtees. He lost the back end of the Aston Martin and hit the off side front into the barrier. The car was returned to the paddock under truck power rather than V12.
After a very slow start to the session the defending series champions, Neil Garner Motorsport, managed to drag themselves up to third position on the grid after battling for the late teens early on. Javier Morcillo salvaged third place when he inherited the car from Manuel Cintrano, displacing the second of our visiting Class 1 Invitational entries.
That was the CWS Ginetta G55 GT3 which races under the #40 tag in British GT. Running in plain orange for this weekend with #19 on the side, Colin White and Tom Sharp shared the driving and troubled the outside of the front row of the grid in places. In the end though there was no match for the Aston Martin’s but the #19 did bring Ginetta chairman Lawrence Tomlinson some cheer after his car, the #32 G55 GT3 he shares with factory driver Mike Simpson, spent most of its session in the garage.
Tomlinson and Simpson’s LNT entered car managed on eight laps, compared to 25 for the Mosler.
Other British GT success came from the #88 BMW Z4 GT3 of 888 Optimum Racing and Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne. The naked carbon liveried machine took third in C1I.
Class 2 went to the #46 entry of Simpson Motorsport. This is a new car to the championship, replacing the Porsche 997 GT3 RSR which has been deemed to be too old and too slow. The team arrived with their new steed, an Audi R8 LMS which earned its living running in the Blancpain Endurance Series in the past couple of years.
With just two tests under their belt, Anthony Mott and Peter Cook put their V10 engine to good use and took a 0.187 second gap out from their nearest rivals, the Team Parker Racing 997. Ian Loggie and Chris Jones in the #24 Porsche held a slightly more comfortable margin over the #60 machine. That was the bright yellow Renault Megane V6 Trophy shared by Woodman and Byford which has made its return after missing the last round of the championship at Rockingham Motor Speedway.
Class 3 was taken by the Ginetta G55 Cup car of Flick Haigh and Ryan Ratcliffe. They put the British built GT over half a second, not to mention a Class 2 Invitational Ferrari, clear of the #69 GTS Motorsport BMW M3 GTR driven by the brothers Webb, (James and Tom) while out of position runners failed to protect the Reid and Grimes driven GT4 Chevron from the indignity of classifying last.
Along with the mishap which befell the championship leading Aston Martin, there were mechanical problems for two cars and traffic related damage for another. The #6 Witt Gamski Ferrari 430 of Gamski and his returning Britcar 24 Hours team mate Phil Dryburgh was involved in an altercation at Paddock Hill Bend. The MJC Ferrari had been stuck behind the #2 Cintrano liveried Mosler for over a lap when Gamski thought it was safe to give it a go. The resulting contact left the nearside rear bodywork on the Italian machine rubbing on the tyre and no doubt contributed to the car’s 16th place qualifying.
The Tracktorque Chevron GR8 was another car to suffer difficulty, falling foul of what we believe to be mechanical issue. The car was bump started to get it out of the pits and ground to a stop out on the circuit. It was recovered at the same time as the Aston Martin bumped by Schultz, at the end of the session and will start in 15th. Team LNT’s Ginetta starts seventeenth after the woes in that team.
The race is harder to call however with changing conditions prevailing in Kent. A clear and dry qualifying session soon gave way to medium to heavy rainfall, washing away rubber and making the track that little bit harder to call. The cars now rest, or receive loving care, until 15:25 on Sunday when the three hour race gets underway.