Early laps ruled the day in the first free practice session at Zandvoort for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship.
Nick Tandy took only a single flying lap to set the time that would hold up for the remainder of the 55 minute session. The Porsche works drivers’ 1:41.899, like much of the top ten times of the session were set before a quick red flag brought out when Joe Osborne stopped at the entrance of the pitlane.
The 888Optimum driver’s problems began earlier in the same lap when one of the rises of the track through the dunes caused the car to bottom out, sending his straight on at the next bend to make heavy, though glancing contact with the Armco barrier with the left-front corner of the car. The car was towed back to the pitlane, sporting suspension damage, holding seventh fastest. Though the team – Lee Mowle co-driving with Osborne – did not improve their time through the rest of the session they held to eighth fastest, such was the lack of improvement as the less experienced drivers took the bulk of the track time available on a new circuit to many.
Come the end of the session the top four was unchanged from the order when the red flag came out. Thus it was the championship leaders in the Beechdean Aston Martin second fastest (1:42.021), the WRT Audi of Warren Hughes and Dutch driver Rembert Berg in third. The #888 BMW Z4 GT3 was fourth with the Fortec Motorsports Mercedes SLS the best of the late movers in fifth.
The session for the team had gotten off to an uncertain start when they had to return to the pits after just an outlap after contact before the session started had punctured the right-rear tyre on the car. The Kinfaun–PGF Aston Martin – the other car involved in the contact – were also forced to return to pits after a single lap in order to repair damage to the front bodywork which had sliced into the Avon rubber.
AF Corse’s Ferrari was sixth fastest. Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen’s Trackspeed Porsche seventh. The #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW, troubled #8 Z4 and FF Corse Ferrari completed the top ten.
Teams in GT4 were far more hot potato with the fastest time.
Early in the session it was the championship leaders Optimum Motorsport – Rick Parfitt Jr and Ryan Ratcliffe – who held the fastest time. However, by the time Ryan Ratcliffe had nosed into the tyre barrier at Hugenholz they had been deposed by Century Motorsport – their nearest challengers in the championship with Declan Jones trying to take the title with help from new co-driver Nathan Freke, the team principal.
Though Ratcliffe returned with the front-right noticeably deranged – including missing a headlight – he returned to the session and was able to improve, taking the top spot back only laps later by the time that the Century car had also had a spin around the Hugenholtz hairpin.
There were also lurid moments for the APO Sport and Redgate/Lifetime Racing Ginetta G40s, though both survived their spins at Hugenholtz and the S-Bocht complex respectively.
The second 55-minute free practice is scheduled to start at 4:50pm local time (3:50pm UK time).