888Optimum At Peak Of Second Practice

by James Broomhead
Osborne beat Tandy to the top time in the session (Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

Having led the way for most of the first practice session 888Optimum Racing ‘won’ the second hour long practice session for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Brands Hatch.

Again the BMW Z4 GT3 looked like arguably the strongest package around the high speed Grand Prix layout with Joe Osborne and the #8 entry holding the top time for all but a handful of minutes. He took a few laps to seize the top time, instead practice one leader John Gaw picked up where he left off in the morning session, putting the PGRKinfaun Aston Martin Vantage back atop the field.

However, once he handed over to co-driver Phil Dryburgh the team’s weekend turned slightly sour.

A high speed off at Paddock Hill Bend damaged the rear of the car against the tyre wall, prompting the first – and longer – of two red flag periods that halted the session. The car – in the hands of Gaw – returned to the track late in session, though purely in an exploratory role with the team aiming to find any major problems before beginning repair work before the qualifying session later this afternoon (5:30pm).

The end of the second red flag – brought out when Steve Tandy spun the #888 car into the fringes of the Paddock Hill gravel – left 33 minutes in the session, and though there were improvements throughout the top ten there was no change at the top.

Rob Barff improved from fifth to third in the FF Corse Ferrari, set to end the session as the best Ferrari driver in a strong entry for the Italian brand. After a disappointing first session with Team WRT Warren Hughes was one to move into the top ten as was Von Ryan Racing’s Duncan Tappy, Stephen Jelley and Phil Keen for Trackspeed, Matt Griffin for AF Corse and Alvaro Parente in the United Autosports McLaren.

As they moved up the order those who had been faster early in the session were shuffled backwards. Fourth fastest when Dryburgh spun off the PGF-Kinfaun Aston would drop to 12th by session’s end. Likewise the Team LNT Ginetta G55 GT3 and Oman Air Motorbase’s Porsche – fourth and sixth under the first red flag – fell to 17th and 20.

Only with ten minute remaining did Nick Tandy hook two overall best sectors together to lay the foundations of a lap that put the championship leading #31 Trackspeed Porsche fastest on 1:25.834.

However, with just five minutes left Osborne himself set two fastest overall sectors, beating Tandy’s time through the first part of the lap, and replacing Stephen Jelley’s third sector benchmark, to retake the top time with a lap of 1:25.784.

Rob Barff and Gary Eastwood’s 458 Italia GT3 was third fastest with Trackspeed’s #32 and #33 between them and the next best Ferrari – that of Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron. Ecurie Ecosse, United Autosports Audi and #23 McLaren and the second 888Optimum Racing BMW completed the top ten, split but just less than a second.

In GT4 it was a similar story to the first session. APO Sport led the session early on before points leaders Optimum Motorsport took the top time. Again, however, it was a late lap from Century Motorsport’s Declan Jones that provided the best time in the class, the Liverpool driver setting a best of 1:34.056, with the Optimum Ginetta 0.435 slower thanks to another late improvement.

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