Porsches ruled Zandvoort during qualifying for the two Avon Tyres GT Championship races at the Dutch track.
The first and second race poles went to Ahmad Al Harthy and Nick Tandy respectively for Oman Air Motorbase and Trackspeed respectively. Al Harthy’s pole – the first this season for the defending champions – was a product of a rightly timed lap with a good lap time as the rain started to fall around the track leaving the rest of the field unable to topple the #1 car from the top of the times.
Steve Tandy was the fastest man of the earliest lap in the session, However, the 888Optimum driver would be one of the first to spin in the rain, the carbon black BMW rotating at Hugenholz, the scene of many spins for the British GT field already this weekend. David Ashburn – co-driver to Nick Tandy – would also briefly hold provisional pole before being pushed out to the outside of the front row by Al Harthy, where the rain helped him stay to create an all-Porsche front row for the race.
Despite the spin Steve Tandy kept third fastest to share the third row with Marco Attard in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW that presents the closest title challenge to Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam in the Beechdean Aston Martin. Howard could only struggle to 19th fastest overall, a result that will mean he lines up behind the best of the GT4 drivers, the British part of which (the Dutch GT Championship has join the British GT gird, though they will not score points for the British series) was led impressively by Declan Jones for Century Motorsport, the Liverpool driver four second faster than Rick Parfitt Jr., qualifying for class points leaders Optimum Motorsport.
GT4 fortunes would be reversed in the second session. Nathan Freke – Jones’ new co-driver in the #43 – speared into the gravel at Tarzan and although the Century Motorsport boss was able to get back onto the track to set a completive time he ended the session second fastest to Optimum performer Ryan Ratcliffe.
With the rain gone for the second session a strong grip on the top time was far harder to maintain. Dan Brown was the early pace setter, just as co-driver Steve Tandy had been, in the first session but he was quickly shuffled back as Fortec Motorsports’ Benji Hetherington, Trackspeed’s Phil Keen, 888Optimum driver Joe Osborne and FF Corse pilot Rob Barff all found time.
Only then did Tandy – who topped both practice sessions – take the provisional pole with the first lap of the weekend in under 100 seconds at 1:39.661 more than half a second faster than Phil Keen in the sister Trackspeed #33 as another all-Porsche front row looked likely.
However, Tandy was joined in the 1:39s by Rob Barff, improving upon his earlier effort. The best first sector time of anyone in the session helped him to split the two Porsches, shoving Keen back onto the second row where he was joined by AF Corse’s Aaron Scott – the Ferrari looking to be the closest challenger to the Porsche this weekend.
Jonny Adam enjoyed a better session in the Beechdean Aston than Andrew Howard did, collecting the fifth fastest time, with Ecurie Ecosse’s Oliver Bryant due to start sixth. Matt Bell, Joe Osborne, Brown and Stephen Jelley completed the top ten, putting all three Trackspeed Porsches in the top ten.
Al Harthy and Ashburn will lead the first race of the weekend to the green flag at 4pm local time (3pm UK). theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have live blog coverage of the race.