After twice standing on the podium at Zandvoort Rob Barff continued the strong run of form for the FF Corse team by setting the best time in the opening practice session for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship finale at Donington Park.
In the Ferrari 458 he shares with Gary Eastwood Barff only moved towards the top of the times late in the hour long session. Shortly after a brief red flag for the Redgate/Lifetime Racing Ginetta G50 GT4 in the McLeans gravel Barff moved up to second behind championship leaders Beechdean AMR and then set the fastest time with just eight minutes to go, lapping the full Donington layout in 1:29.763.
Having sat out the second half of the session after Jonny Adam had gone quickest the Beechdean Aston Martin returned to the track for the final minutes but remained second fastest on 1:29.945. In a strong session for the GT3 Ferraris Aaron Scott and John Dhillon’s AF Corse example was third fastest, taking that place at the fall of the checkered flag at the end of an exchange of fast laps that shaped the top ten in the final minutes.
Following them in the top ten – all through laps set late in the session – the #32 Trackspeed Porsche, both of the 888Optimum Racing BMWs, Team LNT’s Ginetta G55 GT3 and PGF–Kinfaun Aston Martin. Trackspeed’s #33 and #31 rounded out the top ten. Nick Tandy had been fastest in the #31 car in the first half of the session but was forced out of the rest of the session after he returned to the pits trailing fluid from the back of the car that could take him to the title.
The Ecurie Ecosse pair of Marco Attard and Oliver Bryant were eleventh fastest. They will start the race second in the championship points, trailing Beechdean’s Andrew Howard by just half a point. The Oman Air Motorbase team of Michael Caine and Ahmad Al Harthy – third in the points – were only 14th fastest, the worst placed of the six teams in the title battle this weekend.
The opening laps were dominated by the trio of G55 GT3. Both the IDL–CWS and Team LNT cars were fastest for a time before being shuffled backwards as times came down during the session. Also fast in the early stages were the Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin – returning to the championship after missing the Zandvoort races – and the Fortec Motorsports Mercedes SLS though they would fall to 18th and 12th respectively to end the session.
The best time in GT4 went to the Aston Martin Racing entry of works driver Richie Stanaway and Harry Whale. They, as well as the Twisted Team Parker entered Ginetta G50, are not eligible for points so will not influence the destination of the class title.
Of the five teams and eight drivers capable of winning the GT4 crown leaders Optimum Motorsport were fastest with a lap of 1:39.025. Ratcliffe had led the class for a majority of the session, only for the Aston to blast to a 1:38.111 lap.
The Avon Tyres British GT Championship weekend continues with a second free practice session at 11:40am before qualifying scheduled for 3:45pm.