Cocker Sets the Pace for First Practice

Jonny Cocker has set the fastest time in free practice 1 for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Snetterton. The former British GT champion set the fastest time for Ecurie Ecosse in the #79 BMW Z4 GT3 he is sharing with championship leader Marco Attard. Attard’s full season driving partner Alexander Sims, has been called up to his factory BMW driver role for the ADAC Zurich Nurburgring 24 Hours.

Cocker proved how familiar he is with the BMW, a machine very similar to the Barwell Motorsport BMW he drives in the Blancpain Endurance Series by opening the session with the fastest lap time. Before losing out to the Triple Eight Race Engineering entered BMW of Joe Osborne. The two Z4s would continue to battle for the fastest time throughout the session, with United Autosport’s Audi R8 in the hands of Matt Bell and Iain Dockerill also featuring the quest for the top spot.

It was just eight minutes into the session that the GT3 class dipped below the circuit lap record, set in 2013 by the Trackspeed Porsche of Nick Tandy and David Ashburn. Unfortunately for Osborne who first breached the time and for Cocker who laid down the fastest lap of all, lap records can only be taken during racing.

The session settled down after a fairly hectic opening fifteen minutes with a very quick lap from Matt Bell in the #23 holding the top spot across the middle of the session. Track limits violations were being warned as early as nine minutes into the action and several cars struggled with spins during the action. The #4 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin got Agostini wrong with Ahmad Al Harthy at the wheel.

Likewise the #888 which struggled all session to find pace equal to that of the #88 found itself rotating at the Montreal hairpin. A lurid moment out of the Bombhole for the #17 M-Sport Bentley and a spin for the #28 Horsepower Racing Aston Martin of Paul Bailey in the same place punctuated the action.

The dying ten minutes saw Cocker return to the #79 and go fast. Out of nowhere he started setting personal and session best sector times on his way to an astounding 1:50.579. Both the Audi and Triple Eight BMW attempted to counter but it wasn’t to be. Matt Bell’s best would stand at the close of the action with a 0.320 second deficit splitting the #23 from the session topping Z4. Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle would end up a further 0.221 seconds back.

AF Corse took fourth place with the Ferrari 458 Italia of Pasin Lathouras and Richard Lyons who bested the #63 Trackspeed Porsche of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen. Sixth place went to the MP Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 of Mark Poole and Richard Abra. The #38 machine started off a solid block of six Astons running down to eleventh place. Strata 21’s Paul White and Tom Onslow-Cole driven car took seventh from Oman Racing Team’s Jeff Smith and Rory Butcher. Defending champions Beechdean AMR took eighth ahead of Phil Dryburgh and Prodrive boss John Gaw in the PGF-Kinfaun AMR machine. Horsepower completed the run despite their problems at Bombhole.

The Bentleys struggled for pace, on the track which is characterised by its very long Bentley Straight. Having claimed victory in the Blancpain Endurance Series at Silverstone last month M-Sport were unable to climb higher than eighteenth place with the Generation Bentley Racing machine, repaired after its Silverstone fire, in 21st and last of the GT3s.

In GT4 it looked early on like we could be celebrating a session topping performance form the Lotus Evora of ISSY Racing. Oz Yuzuf’s little Brit originally headed the class thanks to a quick lap by co-driver Gavan Kershaw but fell eventually to the almost inevitable pace of the #44 Team Parker Racing Porsche 996 of Barrie Baxter and Dan Cammish. The #44 set a 1:59.961 to head the session, falling half a second short of the lap record set in 2011. The #77 did manage to split the two Parker run cars though and hold on to second place in the session with the #46 Twisted Team Parker Ginetta G55 in third.

Second practice for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship gets underway at just after half past midday with qualifying at 16:40. The Nurburgring 24 Hours gets underway at 15:00 UK time, you can follow both on with N24 updates all race on @tcfsportscars on twitter.