Gaw Aston Fastest In First Brands Hatch Practice

by James Broomhead
Gaw left it lapin the session to go fastest (Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

John Gaw was the fastest man in the first practice session for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Brands Hatch, the Aston Martin driver stopping what looked a likely 1-2 for the 888Optimum BWM Z4s.

The pair of matt black BMWs were fast from the start of the 60 minute session, Joe Osborne and Dan Brown taking first and second in the opening exchanges of the session before a spin by Gary Eastwood brought a temporary halt to the session as the FF Corse 458 GT3 was recovered from the inside of Westfield.

The session restarted after just two minutes and 888Optimum’s hold of the top times was temporarily interrupted will Olly Bryant going fastest ahead of Phil Keen in the #33 Trackspeed Porsche. The Trackspeed trio were on the pace, Stephen Jelley (standing in for Richard Westbrook in the Fisken’s entry) and Nick Tandy going third and fourth.

As teams moved to their less experienced drivers movement on the timing screens largely stopped, though Matt Griffin briefly led the session in the AF Corse Ferrari he shares with Duncan Cameron before Brown and Osborne retook first and second, Brown fastest on 1:26.815.

At the point the session devolved into a few minutes of chaos. Having been quiet up to then, with Eastwood’s spin the only incident of note, within minutes the #78 Barwell Motorsport/Ecurie Ecosse slowed with a clutch problem, Ahmad Al Harthy pulled off at Graham Hill Bend with a flat left-rear tyre and just up the hill from the left hander the PE Group/Blendini Motorsport Audi nosed into the tyre wall on drivers’ right.

Only once the dust – literal and figurative – had settled with ten minutes remaining did Gaw set what would become the fastest time of the session, lapping the Grand Prix layout at the Kent track in 1:26.598 for the PGFKinfaun squad to push Brown back to second. Benji Hetherington pushed the BMW duo further back, moving the lone Fortec Motorsports Mercedes SLS from outside the top 15 up to second with a succession of quick laps that ended with a fastest time of 1:26.801.

The 888Optimum BMWs were third and fourth, with Griffin’s lap in the AF Corse Ferrari fifth quickest ahead of Nick Tandy in the best of the Trackspeed cars. The #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW, United Autosports Audi, #007 Beechdean Aston Martin and Fisken’s Trackspeed entry completed the top ten overall.

After Redgate/Lifetime and Optimum Motorsport both led GT4 during the session Declan Jones ended the session fastest after taking the lead late in session after he took over Century Motorsport’s Ginetta G50 from Zoe Wenham.

Elsewhere in GT4 the Complete Racing Aston Martin was slightly delayed by suspension damage suffered in the early lap but repaired during the session to allow the Tom Wilson and Steve Chaplin driving combination to continue. More serious – limiting their part in the session to just five laps – were the brake problems for the Team LNT Ginetta G55 GT3 of Richard Sykes and Mike Simpson.

The second practice session for the series is scheduled for 2:55pm, with qualifying at 5:30pm.

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