The Beechdean AMR pairing of Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam dominated qualifying for the three hour Avon Tyres British GT Championship race at Silverstone, each man leading their respective halves of the session.
Their combined efforts, an aggregate time of 4:06.087 for two laps around the 3.66 mile Grand Prix circuit put them on pole by nearly a second over the new to British GT VonRyan Racing pairing of Gilles Vannelet and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs.
With only ten minutes for each half of the session on a circuit that draws two minute laps from even the fastest GT3 machinery the session was quick draw affair, the lack of longevity in the tyres only placing greater emphasis on the first flying laps.
Howard set his best time (2:04.390) on his first full lap of the track, his move to provisional pole completing the exchange of the top time as drivers started to put representative times down. Vannelet then Ahmad Al Harthy held pole before Howard took it for good. Though beaten to pole the Al Harthy was one of few drivers to find the time and tyres to improve upon his best time during the session, moving his time down from 2:04.856 to 04.471 before the end of the session, keeping the pressure on the Beechdean duo for the second half of the session.
As the more experienced drivers took over at the wheel Daniel Lloyd took up the role of challenging in the #2 Oman Racing Team Aston but was unable to match the drivers around him his best lap of 2:03.578 unable to keep the turquoise and white machine in second, Al Harthy instead due to line up fifth for the race’s rolling start.
In Lloyd’s stead the challenge was taken up by Joe Osborne and Alexander Sims both drivers lapping under the 2:02 barrier in their BMW Z4, Osborne’s example from Triple Eight, Sims in Ecurie Ecosse colours. Sims’s early 01.979 was beaten by Osborne’s 01.839, though the #888 will start on the outside of row two with the Ecurie Ecosse car to the inside by virtue of the difference in performance between Triple Eight’s Lee Mowle and Ecurie Ecosse’s Marco Attard in the first half of the session.
Jonny Adam though replied in kind to those threatening his position, his 2:01.697 not only confirming the 2013 champions’ pole but emphatically stamping their authority on the race weekend.
Andrew Howard told theCheckeredFlag.co.uk “Racing together for four years, and testing the car together for that amount of time, certainly gives us an advantage because we have those years of experience of racing and testing together. That has meant that when qualifying is like this, we are very strong. It also helps that we have a good record at Silverstone and we’ve run strongly at the circuit in the past – getting good race results as well – so I think we always hoped to do well and it is good that we have.”
“It’s a three hour race tomorrow so anything could happen – especially if the weather turns out to be as it was forecast and starts to rain, that really mixes up the field and makes everything quite unexpected.”
Quaife-Hobbs 2:02.063 kept his McLaren 650S clear of the pair of BMWs moving up the order, the combined 4:07.024 three tenths better than Attard and Sims’ aggregate with the #888 a similar gap behind.
Lloyd and Al Harthy combined for fifth, where they will share the row with Rory Butcher and Liam Griffin in the sister Motorbase run machine. Barwell Motorsport’s #63 BMW, the Team Parker Racing Audi of Calum MacLeod and Ian Loggie was eighth in class, the second VonRyan 650S.
With engine replaced David Ashburn and Norbert Siedler were able to qualify the Trackspeed Porsche 16th of the 18 car class.
The GT4 sessions heralded a three way fight for pole between the junior half of the Beechdean squad, ISSY Racing and the GPRM Toyota GT86.
Oz Yusuf, aboard the ISSY Lotus Evora, struck first before Jamie Chadwick set a lap to put Rockingham pole sitters and race winners Beechdean on top by four hundredths. Yusuf tried to replay and set a quicker lap only to see his 15.047 scrubbed from the board.
That, as the tyres passed their best and teams turned their attention towards swapping drivers for the second half of the session, appeared to have settled the fight in Chadwick’s favour, but the Toyota – in only its second outing as a points’ scoring GT4 car – was gliding up behind.
Richard Williams first staged in fourth before pressing on again, a 2:15.002 placing the car on pole as Stefan Hodgetts climbed in to defend the spot. Ross Gunn replaced Chadwick in the Aston, Gavan Kershaw taking over from Yusuf in the Evora.
Of the three it was Kershaw who had the best session, a first lap of 2:13.575 putting the #77 on pole straight away with Hodgetts slotting into second. Like his co-driver Hodgetts was unable to improve upon his time during the session, but a 2:13.885 and a combined time of 2:28.887 still left short of the 2:28.694 posted by the ISSY crew.
Gunn kept the Beechdean crew close to their rivals, the #407 to start from third in class. Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson, championship leaders in the PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT3, will start from fifth in class.
The Silverstone 500 is scheduled to start at 12:20 tomorrow (Sunday May 31). www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have live blog coverage of the race.