Aston Martin and BMW teams shared the pole position spoils for the first two races of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, with Ahmad Al Harthy and Alexander Sims, respectively, due to start on pole for the first and second races on Easter Monday.
Al Harthy took the Oman Racing Team Vantage GT3 to pole position in the first of the two 15-minute sessions – primarily set aside for the less experienced of the drivers in each pairing. In the car he shares with 2012 series champion Michael Caine he lay in wait until the second half of the session, biding his time in order to secure some clear track before mounting a challenge for pole position.
“It was a bit of a gamble to get some free space on the track and I was happy that I managed to find enough for two laps and put a good time in,” he said. “We didn’t have the prime tyres at the right time but I think everyone was having problems with traffic and I just managed to find some space and get those two quick laps which is most important. It was the quickest lap in all, throughout the two practice sessions but its good maximise it when it counts.”
Through the first half of the session the provisional pole time was held at times by Phil Dryburgh, Derek Johnston, Marco Attard and Andrew Howard.
It was defending champion Howard, in the Beechdean AMR Vantage GT3 who Al Harthy bumped from the top spot with a 1:36.147, more than half a second faster than Howard’s 1:36.728. Such was Al Harthy’s dominance of the session in the #4 car that his second fastest lap would have been good enough for pole position.
Attard was third fastest for Ecurie Ecosse, Pasin Lathouras fourth for AF Corse and Johnston completed the top five in the long Triple Eight BMW in the session after the second practice crash involving the sister car of Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle.
Conversely in the second session it was an early lap from BMW Motorsport man Sims that stood up to the scrutiny of the rest of the ‘Pro’ driver field to give Ecurie Ecosse pole position.
“I had no issues with traffic at all – I had two completely clear laps,” said Sims. “The first was good, and solid, and then I tried to eek a bit more out in the second and I just overcooked it slightly. Thankfully the first was plenty. The fact we were ahead the whole session was a bit surprising, honestly. We’re looking alright, just need to make sure we have a nice, calm race and can put the times in consistently and stay strong. Spot on start to the season.”
Jonny Adam made it a pair of second places for the Beechdean’s GT3 team with Aaron Scott third fastest in the AF Corse Ferrari 458 he shares with John Dhillon. All three took their grid slots on the back of early laps. Steven Kane, meanwhile took fourth in the M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3.
Gavan Kershaw put the ISSY Racing Lotus Evora on pole position for the second race, with Dan Cammish second fastest in the Team Parker Racing Porsche.
The session was brought to an end two minutes before time, the red flag flying to allow safe recovery of a stranded Ginetta at the foot of Clay Hill.
In the earlier session Ross Wylie claimed his first GT racing pole in his first GT race with Beechdean AMR’s GT4 squad in the car he shares with Jake Giddings. Rick Parfitt Jr. qualified second fastest in class for the season opener.
“It’s a completely different challenge going from under-powered front wheel drive cars to a powerful wheel drive animal like these,” reflected Wylie, comparing GT racing with his previous experience in VW racing. “The qualifying session went well, in fairness I don’t think it could have gone much better with P1 and then Jake went P3 in the second qualifying session so I think we’re looking good.”
With Easter Day off the British GT grid will return to action on Easter Monday, the first of the two 60-minute races scheduled for 11:15am. www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have live text commentary of both races.