Qualifying for the 2019 British GT Championship curtain raiser at Oulton Park has finished in spectacular style. Usually the drama comes in the second of the four qualifying sessions, when the GT3 Pro drivers take to the track but for the first session of the season, it was GT4 which astounded. Multimatic Motorsports made their competitive debut to the championship by locking out the GT4 front row for round 1, then dominating qualifying for race 2 and breaking the qualifying lap record.
Series debutante Seb Priaulx had the wheel of the #15 Ford Mustang GT4 for the final qualifying session of the afternoon and queued at the end of the pit lane so was away first. The only Brit in the Multimatic squad got straight down to business, punching in a 1:42.384 on his first flying lap. Astonishingly, his second attempt was a 1:42.8, still good enough for pole by over half a second.
Even more remarkably, the magic lap was the first flying lap Priaulx had ever driven in the Mustang on brand new rubber. He told us, “It just came and I had my first new tyre run of the season. I’ve never actually been on the new tyre, I was really happy with how the car felt and I just drove it! The car was really quick and it came together really well thanks to Ford and Multimatic, and Scott making such a great car.
“It was a good lap and the track was good. The car felt good and everything came together really nicely, I couldn’t be any happier with how it went. Its really great for our confidence and for the season.”
GT4 Pro Qualifying
Scott Malvern for Team Parker Racing took a distant second place, 1.146 seconds behind the Multimatic entry in a session which, discounting the pole, saw 14 cars covered by just a second and 16 covered by the difference between pole and the outside of the front row.
The 1:43.530 should have been an amazing time, 0.373 faster than any GT4 time in practice and almost two tenths clear of the identical Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Fox Motorsport in third place. In any other session that would have been an authoritative margin.
Malvern lamented the Balance of Performance which has seen the AMG adjusted to reduce its handling advantage, “Our car is good at this circuit for sure, I think we got a particularly tough BOP this weekend. Our one strong suit is the handling of the Mercedes, we are pretty down on power compared to most of the other cars but we’ve got good handling. Now unfortunately for the BOP this weekend they have taken away the handling so we are down on power and have no handling. So to put it on P2, I’m pretty happy with that, its as good as we could hope for.
“We are trying, we are really trying. As a point of reference, Nick (Jones), my co-driver is a safe pair of hands but he’s had a few offs this weekend because we are trying too hard. We know we are on the back foot this weekend so to go second today is good for us. I really expected it to be a lot, lot worse.”
Aston Martin took fourth and fifth with Beechdean Motorsport and TF Sport respectively ahead of the Invictus Racing Jaguar. 7th was the best McLaren could turn out thanks to HHC Motorsport, though the #58 car did have a laptime disallowed for track limits which was faster.
With three Mustangs in the field we also got the interesting result of one on pole, one dead last and the third, exactly halfway down the grid. That grid will form on Monday afternoon for Round 2 of the 2019 British GT Championship season.
GT4 Am Qualifying
The GT4 Am qualifying session, setting the grid for the first round of the championship on Monday morning, was interesting enough by itself and saw Multimatic Motorsports lay down a statement of intent. Priaulx’s team mate Scott Maxwell took longer to get up to speed but once he was fully on song took pole by over a tenth of a second.
Second place in the session went to the #19 Multimatic machine, qualified by American racer Jade Buford after a ten minute session were the two factory Mustangs traded the fastest times. Best of the rest went to the McLaren 570S GT4 of HHC Motorsport. In fact both the #57 and the #58 tried to stake a claim on the front row, Tom Jackson struck early to go second, splitting the two Mustangs briefly while Dean MacDonald in the #57 took fourth, later improving to better the team car for third.
TF Sport took the honors for best of the Aston Martin entries in sixth behind the leading BMW of Century Motorsport in fifth place. Race 2 pole sitters Team Parker Racing could only turn in 20th place in the hands of Nick Jones giving Fox Motorsport the honor of best of the Benz, in fifteenth.