Thiim on Top at Donington First Practice

by Nick Smith

TF Sport‘s Nicki Thiim has taken the top spot in free practice one ahead of the sixth round of the 2019 British GT Championship season at Donington Park this weekend. The Dane set a 1:27.951 around the Grand Prix layout of the Leicestershire venue, 0.293 seconds faster than his nearest rival. In GT4 the top spot was taken by Multimatic Motorsports thank to the #15 Ford Mustang GT4 of Scott Maxwell and Seb Priaulx, with the latter posting the time.

For once in British GT for 2019, it was an incident free session to start the meeting. In fact only three of the 41 cars entered failed to set more than 20 laps during the course of the hour long session. The weather played along too, with a rare session under blue skies with light cloud making a change to the recent changeable conditions the 82 driver field have had to contend with.

Behind the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3 of Thiim and Am driver Mark Farmer, it was the championship leading Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO which took second. Phil Keen acts as the Pro in the car but the honor of setting the fastest lap time for the #72 machine fell to Am, Adam Balon. The 1st year GT3 driver’s achievement is even more impressive as he posted a time a quarter of a second faster than Callum MacLeod.

Balon’s time came mid session, on lap 21 of the 30 completed by the Huracan. It means that the Am set his target well in advance of the attempts by the Pros to grab the headlines. That the Silverstone 500 winning RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of MacLeod and his co-driver Ian Loggie couldn’t match the pace not only confirms the strong performance from Balon, but the damage done to the Barwell team’s chances by an early race intra-team contact two weeks ago in Northamptonshire.

The rest of the top ten follows the top three. With only Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Mercedes-AMG represented. That brand newcomers WPI Motorsport managed to significantly outpace title protagonists Sam de Haan and Jonny Cocker, with 4th place 0.406 clear of the second Barwell car thanks to a quick lap in the dying minutes from Dennis Lind. Lamborghini Squadra Corse can celebrate though as all four of their cars feature in the top ten, round by round entry JMH Automotive rounding out the top ten just 1.063 off the pace of the leading car.

Fifth went to Jonny Adam ahead of the Team ABBA Mercedes-AMG, Tom Onlsow-Cole substituting for Adam Christodoulou who is on factory duty at the Nordschliffe this weekend. Ross Gunn for Beechdean AMR and Oliver Wilkinson for Optimum Motorsport put their Vantage GT3s in seventh and eighth respectively.

Credit: Craig Roberston

GT4: Muilti Multimatic to the Fore

In the GT4 class Multimatic Motorsports laid down a solid statement of intent, taking first and second with their #15 and #19 Ford Mustang GT4s. Of course Seb Priaulx set the time in the #15 car, which sits second in the GT4 title fight as the series reaches the halfway point. In the #19 machine though it was more of an uncertain thing as to which driver would be faster. Billy Johnson set the time, both Mustang’s peaking a third of the way through the session, which Sir Chris Hoy was unable to match.

Third in class went to fourth in the title fight and our Silverstone 500 race winners. Team Parker Racing have consistently run in the front of the pack with their Mercedes-AMG GT4 entry but Scott Malvern and Nick Jones have had perennial bad luck. That was until they broke their curse with style earlier this month. The top three in GT4 were covered by less than 0.2 of a second.

Beechdean AMR took fourth thanks to Martin Plowman while Matthew George, freed of the necessity of driving two different cars, was able to focus on the job at hand to place the Invictus Games Racing Jaguar F-Type SVR GT4 fifth ahead of Steller Performance.

Points leaders Callum Pointon and Dean Macdonald only managed 11th in class for HHC Motorsport, the time being set by Macdonald. Best of the McLarens, which can usually be counted on to be somewhere at the sharp end of the field, took seventh. That was the #4 Tolman Motorsport machine in which James Dorlin set the pace.

Of course all things are subject to change and with a second free practice session due immanently it isn’t possible to draw conclusions ahead of this afternoons qualifying sessions. That second free practice starts at 11:50 with qualifying at 15:35 this afternoon.

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