Team Russia by Barwell Racing with Demon Tweeks has laid down the gauntlet to the rest of the Avon Tyres British GT grid as Jon Minshaw finished in first place after the first free practice session at Oulton Park.
With a track that was drying throughout the session, it was obvious that the fastest drivers would only reveal themselves come the end of the main session – and the 20 minute bronze only session that ends the first hour long practice.
For much of the hour, the #63 Team Russia entry was always there or thereabouts with Minshaw and co-driver Phil Keen continuing to better the leading times.
Initially, the time to beat was that of Andrew Watson in the VonRyanRacing McLaren 650S with the cars – making their racing debut this weekend – making the best of the early running.
It was then the turn of 22GT Racing with Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes to put themselves at the front, with their Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 making the best of what was a slowly forming dry line round the Oulton Park circuit.
At that point, with a dry line increasingly apparent, the Team Russia BMW Z4 GT3 staked its first claim to the top spot about 30 minutes in with the fastest individual sector times putting them over a second clear of their nearest competition.
With the main session coming to an end and the bronze rated drivers enjoying their own 20 minute session, it was inevitable that the times were going to start falling.
Surprisingly, the times at the top remained remarkably undisturbed until the final five minutes when Rick Parfitt Jnr in the Team LNT Ginetta G55 GT3 made the most of the track conditions and clocked a 1:41.397.
However, Minshaw wasn’t going down without a fight and just as the chequered flag came out to end the session, he went faster still and made sure that he would claim his place at the top with a time of 1:40.440.
Eventually falling in behind Minshaw and Parfitt, was the #007 Beechdean AMR entry with Andrew Howard four-tenths behind the Ginetta.
Behind the top three were the Jones brothers in the Preci-Spark Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 who seemed to have come from nowhere to set a reliable 1:42.010 to make them ones to watch as more of the sessions play out.
One team that will have to make sure the second practice session offers more joy is the #2 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin of Ahmad Al-Harthy and Daniel Lloyd. They only completed three out-laps and failed to set a time, no doubt the team will be rushing to make sure the car can come out again in second practice.
In the GT4 class, it was a Lotus that ended up fastest – and that was by only two tenths from their nearest competition.
ISSY Racing, led by Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw posted a 1:51.171 to beat the Twisted Team Parker Ginetta G55 GT4 of Adrian Barwick and Bradley Ellis who set 1:51.371.
They were both almost a second ahead of the UltraTek Racing Lotus Evora of Jamie Wall and Tim Eakin who couldn’t break into the 1:51s and settled for a 1:52.176.
Behind the second Lotus, was the first of the six Aston Martin GT4 Challenge cars with Academy Motorsport heading the pack in this session with a 1:52.967.
Of note, last year’s GT4 class champions – the Beechdean Aston Martin GT4 Challenge car of Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn finished tenth in class in what was their first competitive session in British GT.
Elsewhere, the only Porsche racing this year – the AmD Tuning Porsche 911 GT4 – raced by Graham Coomes and Shaun Hollamby, finished 8th in class.