The first free practice session for the 2019 British GT Championship at Snetterton saw TF Sport with Nikki Thiim claim the fastest time. In an hour long practice, the drivers were forced to deal with a rapidly evolving circuit as overnight rains made for an initially slippery surface which grew over the session into a fully dry, 2.97 mile 300 layout.
In GT4 the top honours were claimed by the series debutants GT Marques thanks to a 1:58.478 from Dino Zamparelli.
GT3: TF Sport’s #2 To the Fore While #47 Struggles in 7th.
From early on it was Aston Martin to the fore with early quick times from Marco Sorensen for TF Sport. Rob Bell troubled the top spot for a while in the Balfe Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 he shares with team owner Shaun Balfe. It was a fine reward for the team after a troubled Oulton Park, which saw the team forced to withdraw at the qualifying stage with electrical issues. Bell took the top spot with a 2:00.536 only to lose out by a third of a second just moments later.
Soon after Bell countered with a 1:57.125 as all the teams switched from wet tyres to slicks. The McLaren ended the session in sixth place overall.
Another early surprise was the pace of the #18 machine. Starting the season as a GTC Porsche, the car is now a GT3 Lamborghini and the WPI Motorsport team were quickly on the pace on the greasy track, at points running as high as third before fading away to tenth. That still put the Adam Wilcox and Michael Igoe driven machine ahead of both BMW GT3s and the podium winning Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Team ABBA.
It was a strange session, with the pros taking to the track early. That meant both that improvements on a drying track were rapid but also that we were robbed of a dash for the headlines at the end of the session. There were few improvements in the last half hour, almost a relief after a frantic start to the session, though Jonny Adam for TF Sport nipped into second soon after the halfway mark with a 1:49.931. Once the drivers changed over it was Barwell Motorsport and JRM who rose to attention, if not the top of the timesheets.
A quick lap from 2007 Champion Jonny Cocker put the #69 Lamborghini he shares with Sam de Haan into second place, though a reposte by Balfe saw the McLaren move into that position by the 15 minutes to go mark. Similarly a quick time from Seb Morris in the JRM Bentley Continental GT3 was sufficient to move that entry, shared with Rick Parfit Jr into fourth.
Late session improvements for Marco Sorensen saw the Beechdean entered Aston Martin rise to second, only to be demoted to third by Phil Keen in the dying moments. Similarly Michael Igoe improved on Wilcox’s time for eighth place only to be demoted twice by later improvements.
GT4: Zamparelli Gives GT Marques Boasting Rights in Debut British GT Session.
In GT4 it was a similar story with Aston Martin claiming an early advantage thanks to Tom Canning for TF Sport. Minutes later the time was improved by Patrick Mathiesen who put his Optimum Motorsport run Vantage into the top spot.
With the times tumbling next to take to the top was Oulton Park pole sitter Seb Priaulx for Multimatic Motorsports. By the halfway mark the class was begining to settle down and the newcommers in the Porsche 718 Cayman Clubsport GT4 had struck the top of the time sheets and stayed at the top until the close.
The #88 machine headed an eventual top three filled with double digit entries. The #66 of Scott Malvern and Nick Jones took second place for Team Parker Racing and Mercedes-AMG. Third went the way of Matthew George, proving that Oulton Park’s pace for the Invictus Games Racing #44 Jaguar wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
In fact the story of the Free Practice session in GT4 was less who was quick and more who wasn’t on the pace come the end of the session. Track Focused were never expected to be quick with their KTM and true to predictions the car ended the session last, one of only three cars which didn’t break the 2 minute barrier.
More surprising were the other two in that small group, the #43 BMW M4 GT4 of Century Motorsport and the #61 Academy Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
The British GT field return to Snetterton’s 300 circuit at 11:40 with the second of two free practice sessions ahead of the qualifying session this afternoon.