Optimum and Barwell Set Oulton Practice Pace


(Credit: Nick Smith/theimageteam.com)

Optimum Motorsport and Barwell Motorsport led the way with the fastest times in the opening practice sessions of the 2018 British GT Championship at Oulton Park.

Fox Motorsport clinched FP1 top spot in GT4, whilst reigning champions HHC Motorsport led the way in a red-flag filled FP2.

Barwell continued their rich vein of form from a year ago at the Cheshire circuit in the early exchanges – Phil Keen emphatically storming to top spot within five minutes courtesy of a scintillating lap time in damp conditions.

A wave of AMR drivers debuting in the British GT soon surged to the front of the field, as Beechdean‘s Darren Turner and TF Sport‘s Nicki Thiim posted impressive times to ramp up the pressure on the leading Lamborghini.

The Lamborghini-Aston Martin dominance was disrupted at the 15-minute mark in FP1, with Lee Mowle marching into the lead of the session in the #116 ERC Sport Mercedes-AMG GT3.

A tightly-contested duel at the front of GT4 saw Tolman Motorsport‘s David Pattison setting the pace in the #56 McLaren 570S before the returning, BMW Motorsport-backed Century Motorsport squad powered ahead and to the top of the time-sheets.

Former GT3 ace Jack Mitchell’s blistering early speed scorched the GT4 field, with BMW team-mate Ben Tuck equally fast as Century secured the top two spots with the clock ticking towards the final 10 minutes.

A frantic final segment saw Keen jostling with Mowles’ Mercedes for practice 1 honours in GT3, only for 2017 Le Mans 24 hours winner Jonny Adam to split the pair with a sensational effort – dethroning Mowle and clinching top spot on his Optimum Motorsport debut.

An equally unpredictable ending in GT4 saw BMW bumped down the order in unlikely fashion – toppled by Fox Motorsport’s Michael Broadhurst as Mercedes flexed their muscle and showcased their promising speed in the opening session.

Fox Motorsport earned FP1 honours at Oulton. (Credit: Nick Smith/theimageteam.com)

Feeling no effect of the void left by the exit of Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton from their title-winning squad in 2017, HHC Motorsport clambered to the front as the clock expired in session one, with Patrick Matthiesen posting an impressive lap-time to snatch second from Equipe Verschuur‘s Finlay Hutchison.

Patrick Kujala powered the #2 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini to the front in the opening seconds of practice 2 with a scorching time ahead of the chasing #7 Team Parker Racing‘s Callum MacLeod.

Barwell’s joy was short-lived however, with the red-flag waved to allow for the recovery of Jonny Cocker‘s stricken #69 Lamborghini – out of action having suffered damage in an excursion at Brittens Chicane.

A stuttering session was brought to an abrupt halt again soon after the restart – Stephen Johansen‘s #54 UltraTek Racing Team RJN Nissan 370Z GT4 stopping on the circuit with reliability issues.

After a disappointing campaign piloting a Porsche in 2017, a pre-season switch to the newly-developed Mercedes-AMG GT4 looked to have paid dividends for Team Parker Racing – Nick Jones firing his #66 Mercedes to the top of the pecking order ahead of last year’s Spa winner Charlie Fagg.

With teams preparing to turn the screw heading into the final 10 minutes, TF Sport launched the first salvo as Marco Sorensen hauled his #17 Aston Martin ahead of Kujala’s Lamborghini by 0.160 seconds.

A third brief stoppage to rescue Leo Machitski‘s previously pace-setting #2 Lamborghini from the gravel looked to have ended any hopes of late drama as, before the green flag waved with two minutes remaining to set up a practice shootout.

Having stormed to a dominant double at Oulton Park in 2017, Keen and Minshaw raised hopes of another strong weekend at the Cheshire circuit by usurping Sorensen and winning the session by half a second – rescuing a positive result from a destructive session for Barwell.

A frighteningly fast time from Will Burns toppled Jones’ TPR Mercedes to win the GT4 fight for HHC Motorsport as practice drew to a close.

The sole surviving Lamborghini proved fastest in FP2. (Credit: Nick Smith/theimageteam.com)