Century’s Gamble Pays Out with Pole

by Nick Smith
The #9 BMW M6 GT3 of Century Motorsport at Snetterton

GT3 qualifying for the second weekend in the 2019 British GT Championship has just ended with Tom Gamble securing a shock pole for round 3 of the championship on Sunday. In GT3 Pro qualifying it was two poles from two visits for Danish AMR Pro driver Nikki Thiim.

GT3 Am Qualifying: Gamble Comes In for Century Motorsport.

For much of the first ten minute qualifying session, Tom Gamble languished deep in the mid-pack. It was to be expected as the Century Motorsport BMW M6 GT3s hadn’t risen much in the two hours of practice.

Shaun Balfe for Balfe Motorsport was the first to hit the track and with the benefit of clean air, he went straight to the top of the table. Unfortunately traffic at Murrays on his first flying lap compromised the McLaren 720S GT3’s best shot at the top spot. Adam Balon for Barwell Motorsport was similarly slowed which put the #72 car on the back foot too.

The first to get a clean lap was Sam de Haan in the #69 Lamborghini from Barwell and with no traffic to slow him he shot straight into the 1:49s with a .205, 0.87 of a second clear of the McLaren. Balon’s blushes definitely wern’t spared as Michael Igoe in the only non-Barwell Huracan in the field demoted him from the top three.

Glyn Geddie then promptly grabbed second place in the Bentley from Team Parker Racing and Dominic Paul nabbed third, demoting Igoe and pushing Balon out of the top four.

A troubled lap for Mark Farmer put him into eighth place before others set their first times and pushed him back down to 12th overall. The trouble was even greater for Graham Davidson who blocked the pit lane for almost a minute in his TF Sport Aston Martin before the team got to him and pushed him back down the pit lane. He would eventually join the track and post a 1:49.432, suitable for third place on the grid.

Tyres were the real story of the qualifying battles in both Pro and Am. Teams found that qualifying had effectively become a one lap shootout for pole position. Only Adam Balon managed to improve on his first best attempt, slotting into the outside of the front row for round 3 of the series after Tom Gamble blasted from nowhere to pole by 0.076 of a second.

A late attempt by Rick Parfitt Jr came to nothing for the JRM run Bentley Continental GT3 which dragged itself to 10th place overall. Similarly, Geddie tried again in the dying seconds of the session but couldn’t improve on his fifth place start.

GT3 Pro Qualifying: Thiim’s ‘One Lap Wonder’ Puts Aston On Pole.

Nikki Thiim and Mark Farmer's TF Sport Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3.

Credit: BritishGT.com/Jakob Ebrey Photography

The qualifying session for the pros was different to the am session as the track continued to mature after the overnight rains. Cars light on their tyres stood a chance at a two lap life but it was a gamble many were unwilling to take.

It was just the third laptime of the session which set the pole, with Aston Martin Racing’s Nikki Thiim hooking up a spectacular display of speed to take the top spot by just 0.055 seconds. Despite the almost ideal conditions, Thiim’s time still fell 0.014 of a second short of the Qualifying Lap Record held by Phil Keen from 2017.

One of the only drivers to even attempt an improvement was Keen. He tried three laps in the Lamborghini he shares with Adam Balon and actually made progress to second on the second attempt. A third attempt which took him to the checkered flag was destined for naught and the #72 was forced to settle for the outside of the front row.

Balon kept his third place ahead of Seb Morris in the JRM Bentley while Adam Christodoulou‘s Team ABBA Mercedes-Benz dropped from an initial second place to fifth on the grid. Rob Bell for Balfe Motorsport was set for third but later laps demoted him to sixth ahead of Jonny Adam, third of the three AMR factory racers.

Nikki Thiim was delighted by the result and told TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk after the session, “It’s not bad, my second race here and my second pole position. I’m starting to enjoy this track.

“Its a one lap wonder really, because of the tyres. You get one lap from the tyres, the peak is really massive around here so basically nailing the first lap is what is about. It was a good lap, I always appreciate some fresh tyres and low fuel, it’s like Christmas for a racing driver so its great. P1 is good for the team, its mirrored the first qualifying but thats how it is. We will see tomorrow.

“With a modern GT3 car its nice to have fresh air in front of you so in the second race we can make a good start. We’ve got to hope for no safety car so we can build a gap and hand it over to Mr Farmer and he can get the job done hopefully. In the first race we will just get the best out of it that we can. We saw in Oulton Park what can happen, I just told him to be calm and collected and keep it there so I can try to get the job done after the pit stop.”

The first race of the day gets underway at 11:10 tomorrow morning and will be live streamed on the British GT website. Race two will start at 15:25. Full coverage will be on TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk.

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