Haigh’s Optimum Lap Seals Pioneering Pole


Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com

Flick Haigh became the first woman to claim an overall pole in British GT history for Optimum Motorsport, while Phil Keen launched Barwell Motorsport‘s title bid with top spot for race two at Oulton Park.

In GT4, Equipe Verschuur‘s Finlay Hutchison and Daniel McKay landed a memorable double pole to kick-off their full British GT debut in sensational style.

The opening qualification began with Aston Martin topping the standings – Mark Farmer‘s blistering lap-time in the #11 TF Sport Aston enough to fend off defending champion Rick Parfitt Jr‘s #1 Team Parker Racing Bentley in the opening exchanges.

Parfitt Jr soon powered to the front however, emphatically storming half a second clear of the chasing fleet of Aston Martin behind being led by Andrew Howard for the returning Beechdean AMR squad.

Hoping to build on impressive practice pace, Optimum Motorsport fired the final salvo as Haigh clambered above both Parfitt and Howard to charge into top spot by one tenth and clinch race one pole in a closely-contest first session.

After failing to make an impact over a pair of abject practice sessions, Ian Loggie‘s #7 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 burst onto the scene to snatch third immediately behind team-mate Parfitt Jr with five minutes remaining.

Farmer couldn’t capitalise on his initial pace-setting form – spinning into the grass through Deer Leap to cruelly end any hopes of posting pole as the Aston retired from action for the remainder of the session.

2017 title-fighter Jon Minshaw could only muster eighth as Barwell Motorsport failed to contend with their Aston rivals in the fight at the front in GT3.

Derek Johnston‘s sealed fourth late-on to salvage a strong result for TF Sport, successfully shuffling Howard’s Beechdean Aston Martin into fifth as Haigh held on to land a landmark result.

Needing a spark to rescue a dismal day, Keen took the reigns to open the second session and immediately fired the #33 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini to the front to take a firm grip on provisional GT3 pole for race two.

A tantalising back-and-fourth dog-fight ensued as Optimum Motorsport’s Jonny Adam arrived on the scene and fought within two tenths of Keen’s fastest effort, as the #75 Aston Martin looked to secure a sensational GT3 double.

Friendly rivalry emerged between Dane Train members Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim, who fought equally for third in a pair of TF Sport Aston Martins – the former landing the decisive blow and successfully clinching third over his team-mate come session’s end.

ERC Sport converted impressive practice speed into a solid top-five result under the stewardship of Lee Mowle in the #116 Mercedes, whilst Keen held on at the front despite Adam’s best efforts as the #33 Lamborghini fired a warning to their Aston adversaries.

A blistering lap by Phil Keen pipped Jonny Adam to the pole for race two. (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)

 

An enthralling GT4 session saw the #10 Equipe Verschuur McLaren 570S of Hutchison instantly streak clear of the chasing pack by six tenths, cashing in on blazing practice speed to leave the rest of the field stunned.

The #4 Tolman Motorsport McLaren of Michael O’Brien came closest to pipping Hutchison’s pole time, falling five tenths short whilst still sealing a McLaren front-row lock-out.

Century Motorsport‘s BMW Motorsport-backed entries began to ramp up the pressure, but could only earn fourth and fifth to highlight a successful debut of the M4.

As time expired to mark the end of the session, Callum Pointon split the leading McLarens and parked the #55 HHC Motorsport Ginetta G55 on the front-row as the reigning GT4 champions began their defence in near-perfect fashion.

The fourth and final qualifying segment saw GT4’s pro competitors clamber into the cockpit, with the #66 Team Parker Racing Mercedes-AMG of Scott Malvern quickly racing to the head of the standings ahead of FP2 winner Will Burns#50 HHC Motorsport Ginetta.

Neither could hold onto their respective positions for long – each immediately displaced by Equipe Verschuur as McKay vaulted the #10 McLaren to the front of the field again to ignite their hopes of storming to a memorable double pole.

Having been hurriedly drafted in by Century Motorsport, Ricky Collard proved his worth with fourth in the #43 BMW M4 GT4, whilst Lewis Proctor rounded out a talent-brimmed top-five in the second of three Tolman McLarens on show at Oulton Park.

Malvern’s late effort to overhaul McKay’s provisional pole time proved in vein, shaving the gap to 0.052 but unable to prevent Equipe Verschuur from landing a perfect pair of poles on their dream British GT debut.

Hutchison and McKay sealed a double pole for Equipe Verschuur. (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)