TF Sport have topped both of the free practice sessions at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps ahead of the seventh round of the championship tomorrow. The Aston Martin squad took three of the four available top spots in the two one hour sessions, with AMR pro driver Nicki Thiim heading GT3 in both.
In GT4 the first session went to Tom Canning, sharing the #97 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 with Ash Hand, set the leading pace. The second session was the chance for another marque to hit the top spot, Balfe Motorsport taking the opportunity to head the timesheets in the sole international round of the 2019 British GT Championship.
FP1: Thiim and Canning Take Top Honours.
First to head the time sheets in free practice 1 was the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Callum Macleod. An early fast lap in the Benz put the Northamptonshire team ahead but before co-driver Ian Loggie could get in the car for a go himself, Thiim struck with the first of two fast laps quick enough to steal the headlines.
His initial attempt was lowered to a 2:20.890 soon after as the car he shares with Mark Farmer cemented its place at the top.
Initial speed from the RAM Racing car gave way to other competitors as the session entered its final minutes. Championship leaders Barwell Motorsport eventually took second place, but couldn’t match the pace of the Dane in the #2 machine. Phil Keen set the second place time in the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO he shares with Adam Balon placing ahead of the erstwhile pace setter in third.
Jonny Adam in the second TF Sport GT3 car took fourth place ahead of Adam Christodoulou for Team ABBA, ensuring both GT3 Mercedes a top five finish.
Sixth place in the session, which was remarkably free of incident, went the way of Barwell’s #69 machine. The fast lap was set by Jonny Cocker, but the crew were cut short on time, managing only six laps in the hour after finding a water leak in their Huracan. WPI Motorsport put a third Lamborghini in the top ten ahead of the JRM Racing run Bentley Continental GT3 of Rick Parfitt Jr and Seb Morris.
In GT4 it was Tom Canning who set the fastest time, claiming the head of the timesheets just around half distance. Until the #97 came to the fore, Scott Malvern for Team Parker Racing held sway. In a remarkable duplication of the GT3 class, a Mercedes-AMG GT4 gave way to an Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4. No-one could match the pace of the #97 machine despite the margin of superiority being a slim 0.065 seconds. Malvern and Nick Jones maintained second place through to the end of the hour.
It was a close run thing in the lower class though, with 1st to 4th covered by only three tenths. Martin Plowman put the Beechdean AMR run Aston Martin he shares with Kelvin Fletcher into third place ahead of the Tolman Motorsport run McLaren 570S GT4 of Josh Smith and James Dorlin. The Mid-Rear interloper in the top five pushed the Invictus Games Racing Jaguar F-Type SVR GT4 of Matthew George and Steve McCully down to fifth.
The battle of the family members in Multimatic Motorsports was initially decided in favour of the father. Andy Priaulx MBE outpaced his full season entered son in the #19 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang he is sharing for a single round with Sir Chris Hoy.
FP2: Thiim Continues on Top While McLaren Move To Fore in GT4.
The second hour provided more of a challenge for Nicki Thiim and Mark Farmer, with genuine competition for the top spot from the Bentley Continental of JRM Racing. It was a duplicated story in GT4 with McLaren pushing its way to the top spot at the expense of a Canning double.
A slow start to the session meant that the truly fast times didn’t arrive until 25 minutes in. Thiim struck first, only to be almost immediately countered by Seb Morris aboard the #31 Bentley. As in free practice 1 though, the Great Dane had one up his sleeve and immediately countered with the eventual fastest lap of the session. Not only did he better the Bentley but he topped his own best at the circuit, by 0.008 seconds compared to FP1.
Behind the two manufacturer backed heavyweight drivers, there was a positive gulf of 1.6 seconds to the third placed car. Phil Keen again featured, putting the championship leading Lamborghini Huracan into third at the expense of Ben Green and Jack Mitchell in the #4 BMW M6 GT3 of Century Motorsport who had initially held the bragging rights in the session.
The Optimum Motorsport Vantage GT3 of Bradley Ellis and Jersyman Jack Butel, took the Silver Cup bragging rights, bettering the #69 Lamborghini of Sam de Haan and Jonny Cocker and the #47 of Adam and his team mate Graham Davidson.
In the lower class Balfe Motorsport struck early to deny Canning a double. The #20 PMW Motorsport World Expo backed machine went 0.133 seconds quicker than the violently yellow Aston Martin, 0.8 seconds quicker than the fastest set in the early outing. Canning also had challenges from behind as the Fox Motorsport run Mercedes-AMG joined the party in third, 0.016 seconds shy of the Aston Martin.
TF Sport’s disappointment at losing out on a double double was eased by the second GT4 entry, Patrick Kibble and Josh Price at the wheel, taking fourth place in the second outing ahead of Andy Priaulx. The family squabble was much closer this time though, with Priaulx senior outpacing the son by just a single position, until Martin Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher conspired to split the pair, knocking Seb Priaulx down to seventh at the line.
Debutants in the GT4 class, Alfab Racing put their McLaren 570S into eighth place ahead of Academy Motorsport’s Aston Martin. The AMR crew’s emergency replacement car, another McLaren, didn’t place so well. The 570S GT4 of Ben Hurst and Micah Stanley replaces the V8 Vantage GT4 which was heavily damaged at the recent GT4 European Series race at Zandvoort and couldn’t be repaired in time for the Spa weekend.
The qualifying session for the British GT Championship at Spa takes place today at 14:10 BST. Live coverage of the race will be available on thecheckeredflag.co.uk. You can also view live pictures on the British GT website. There is no live coverage of the qualifying session.