Ecurie Ecosse’s driver combination of Marco Attard and Alexander Sims proved unbeatable in qualifying for the two hour Avon Tyres British GT Championship race at Rockingham.
The session brought the first use of the series’ revised qualifying format for the longer races with the best laps of each driver being added together to create an aggregate time which goes towards forming the grid. However, the need for any maths before finding which team had one pole position was removed as Attard and Sims led their respective halves of the half hour session to claim pole position by more than a second.
Sims and his fellow ‘Pro’ drivers got the qualifying underway, the BMW works pilot wasting little time in taking the provisional pole position with his very first flying lap before improving his time down to 1:22.497. With the best of the Avon tyres ebbing away from him Sims completed the mandatory three times laps before bringing the #79 BMW Z4 GT3 into the pits.
Richard Abra, who set the second fastest time in the first part of the session, had already brought the MP Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 into the pits. Jonny Adam was third fastest in the Beechdean AMR entry, Alex Buncombe powering the big Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 into fourth place in the first fifteen minutes before pitting for the team to prepare the car for co-driver Chris Hoy.
The near half second advantage that Sims passed onto Attard may have been enough for pole position on any day, but Attard made certain of pole position, adding another six tenths to the advantage once he led the field away from the pits at the start of the second part of qualifying.
Behind Sims’ dominant performance 12 drivers packed into the same second, meaning that the differing paces of the less experienced drivers played an important role in shaping the look of the grid.
With a best lap of ‘only’ 1:26.523 from Mark Poole the MP Motorsport Aston slid from second down to tenth, with Andrew Howard the immediate beneficiary as he ensured a front row start for the Beechdean AMR GT3 pairing. That was despite a brake issue that ended his session early, the defending drivers’ champion stopping on the back of Rockingham’s oval after failing to stop for the Deene hairpin.
Mark Patterson helped move the United Autosports Audi up from sixth to third, Phil Dryburgh building on the fifth fastest time set by co-drive John Gaw to line the PGF-Kinfaun AMR car up in fourth place ahead of the Triple Eight Race Engineering BMW Z4 of Derek Johnston and Luke Hines.
Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine combined to put their Oman Racing Team Aston in sixth fastest ahead of FF Corse’s Ferrari in seventh.
Chris Hoy held the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN entry inside the top ten in eighth with the Trackspeed Porsche of Phil Keen and Phil Keen in ninth ahead of the MP Motorsport Aston.
It was a different story in GT4 as Tom Oliphant overturned a deficit to give he and Rick Parfitt Jr. pole position in their Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4.
Parfitt Jr. was only fifth fastest in the first part of qualifying with a best lap of 1:30.909 compared to Gavan Kershaw’s 1:30.11 that led the way in ISSY Racing’s Lotus Evora.
However, while Oz Yusef – the second man in the ISSY Lotus – could only log a best time of 1:32.235 Oliphant – freshly arrived from the Ginetta GT4 Supercup rounds at Thruxton – turned in a best lap of 1:30.910 to take class pole by half a second over the Lotus pairing.
Round one class winners Ross Wylie and Jake Giddings put Beechdean AMR’s GT4 car third in class, Wylie another to haul his car up the grid with a strong lap in the second half of the session.
The two hour race at Rockingham is scheduled to start at 1:55pm. www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have live blog coverage of the race.