Brands Hatch winners Nick Tandy and David Ashburn set the fastest time as the Avon Tyres British GT Championship season finale weekend got underway at Donington Park.
Porsche works driver Tandy turned in a lap of 1:29.482 with a quarter of the hour long session remaining to put the #31 Trackspeed Porsche top of the pile. That particular lap came immediately after Tandy had moved into second behind the time set by Matt Bell in United Autosports’ Audi around the half way mark in the session.
Bell, with Mark Patterson, won the series’ race at Donington to end last season as they were narrowly beaten to the title. This year, however, after an off form season the pair are outside of the championship picture, with just two teams capable of delivering their drivers to top honours come the end of Sunday’s two hour race.
Bell’s 1:29.551 in turn beat the 1:29.906 deposited atop the times by Benny Simonsen, the Dane again starting the weekend strongly in the Rosso Verde Ferrari having set the fastest time in practice a fortnight ago at Brands Hatch.
By the end of the session Simonsen’s time, in the car he shares with its owner Hector Lester, had been pushed back down to fourth, Jonny Adam improving to third in the very final lap of the session, a 1:29.779 leaving the #1 as the best of the Aston Martins in the field. Phil Keen was another to improve late in the session, moving up to fourth before Adam’s lap. Keen looked set to move further up the order, starting his final lap of the session with the best time of anyone through the first part of the lap. However, rather than complete the lap he came into the pits as the checkered flag fell to bring running to a close.
The #888 and #79 BMWs were sixth and seventh fastest, Alexander Sims with the best lap in the Ecurie Ecosse machine also driven by championship leader Marco Attard. Sims and Attard need only finish sixth to secure the title and with their lone title rivals, the #4 Oman Racing Team Aston, only 16th fastest it was the BMW team who landed the opening blow of the showdown weekend.
The AF Corse Ferrari of Aaron Scott and John Dhillon was eighth fastest with the #5 Oman Racing Team Aston and Team LNT’s Ginetta G55 GT3 completing the top ten, the factory run Ginetta returning to the championship in the hands of Steve Tandy and Mike Simpson having run in Europe for the rest of the year.
The ISSY Racing run Lotus of Gavan Kershaw and Oz Yusef was the best of the GT4 field despite losing much of the session as the team replaced the driveshaft on the car after it coasted to a halt at the pit exit after 20 minutes of running. The Twisted Team Parker Ginetta and Team Parker Racing’s Porsche were second and third fastest. The Beechdean AMR pairing of Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie, comfortably leading the class points were fifth fastest in class.
The British GT field will be back in action for the second practice session, scheduled for 12:20pm.