Bentley Claim Second Practice at Brands Hatch.

by Nick Smith

Team Parker Racing have taken the top spot in the second free practice session for the 2019 British GT Championship on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. Unlike in free practice 1, the session was both more varied in terms of the variety at the top of the timesheets, and disrupted by a red flag. Glynn Geddie weathered the disruptions and the competition to set the pace in the #7 Bentley Continental GT3 he shares with Ryan Ratcliffe. In GT4 the top spot was taken by the #97 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 of Ash Hand.

The early running of the session was much more varied than in free practice 1. Initially it was the JRM Racing Bentley Continental GT3 which ruled the roost, Seb Morris striking early to put the car top with a 1:27.333. There the #31 would stay for ten minutes while the order behind settled itself out. Once the cars got properly up to speed though, a Bentley 1-2 thanks to a quick lap from Ryan Ratcliffe gave way to a quick flurry of changes at the top.

TF Sport‘s Nicki Thiim got on a run, putting the #2 he shares with Mark Farmer into second place. A quick repost from Ratcliffe demoted the Dane to third before countering again, the #2 machine went to the top of the table. Ben Green also impressed early on, setting a time good enough for second on his first flying lap, the gathering his Century Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 for a run at the top, missing by a fraction of a second. Another attempt put the car in the top spot just before Green gave way to co-driver Dominic Paul.

Thiim had also re-improved, knocking the Bentleys down to third and fourth. Rob Bell for Balfe Motorsport slipped into the gap and secured fourth for the McLaren just as Thiim’s co-driver Farmer was losing the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3 at Paddock Hill Bend. There was no damage to the car but Farmer beached it on the outside curb, bringing out the red flag so the t the Marshals could get to work dragging him out.

Credit: Craig Robertson/RacePhotography.net

The only GT3 car not to grace the track at this point was the #6 RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Ian Loggie and Callum Macleod. The Silverstone based outfit opted instead to wait out the rush and put in its laps on low fuel later in the session. Two GT4s kept the Mercedes company, RACE Performance were a little late out repairing a failed upright on the #23 Ford Mustang GT4 of Arron Taylor-Smith and Sam Smelt. The #35 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 of Optimum Motorsport was less lucky, not getting out in the first half of the session as the team struggled to repair a power unit problem which had plagued the car in the opening hour.

Callum Macleod joined the track as the green flag flew after the red flag, his first attempt rocketing the Benz to the head of the field with a 1:26.903. Proof, if it were needed, of the Mercedes-AMG pace came from Tom Onslow-Cole who soon after rocketed the #8 Team ABBA Racing run GT3 to the head of the table.

With two thirds of the session time elapsed, Glynn Geddie was installed aboard the Team Parker Racing Bentley and sent out to see what he can do. What he could do was blitz the field and go to the top in a 1:25.827. Soon after the WPI Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO would make second place on a 25.987 thanks to Dennis Lind, sharing the #18 with Michael Igoe.

Worryingly, with just over a quarter of the session remaining, the two championship leading cars were placed 13th and 14th respectively.

Ten minutes remained in the session when Phil Keen finally joined the party. His first real attempt for Barwell Motorsport leapfrogged the Mercedes-AMGs and slotted the #72 he shares with Adam Balon into third place. Jonny Cocker tried to duplicate the feat in the #69 championship leading Lamborghini but could only manage 9th as almost all the teams strapped on new tyres, installed pro drivers and went for a qualifying simulation lap.

Ryan Ratcliffe did manage it though and demoted the #72 to second place.

Valentin Hasse-Clot was also in the improving game with less than ten minutes remaining. His best attempt for Beechdean AMR bringing the #99 to seventh and dropping the Balfe Motorsport McLaren down to eighth. Cocker then dropped the McLaren to ninth, slotting into the gap before improving further to take fourth place from Richard Neary in the ABBA machine.

Improvements weren’t only at the top in the final five minutes either. Angus Fender improved the best time for the #9 Century Motorsport BMW he shares with Jack Mitchell, rising to the dizzying heights of 12th in the GT3 class but definately an improvement. It is after all the drivers GT3 class debut having contested the season so far in the #43 BMW M4 GT4.

Credit: Craig Robertson/RacePhotography.net

GT4 was an early lead for Tom Canning with Martin Plowman in second place. Both Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4s, for TF Sport and Beechdean AMR respectively, put in their quick laps early on while Scott Malvern was getting warmed up. Once up to speed though the Team Parker Racing run Mercedes reprised its role at the head of the GT4 field, felled only after the red flag period.

#88 was the shock quick runner, the #95 which bettered the Nick Jones/Scott Malvern machine being expected to do well. Josh Price took the TF Sport Aston Martin past the Mercedes on the time sheets only to be bettered by the GT Marques run Porsche 718 Cayman Clubsport GT4 of Dino Zamparelli. Expecting race winning pace from the only Porsche in the field is a bit of a stretch though as his co-driver Chris Car has not shown exceptional performance in the car this year. Its the team’s debut season though so we hope for improvements in 2020.

Just after the two thirds mark Canning resumed his leading pace, displacing Car and Zampirelli, heading an Aston Martin 1-2 in class as Patrick Matthiesen brought the #75 Optimum Motorsport machine to second place. Of McLaren, which was always expected to be strong at Brands Hatch, there was next to no sign. The best of the 570S runners was Graham Johnson for Balfe Motorsport. The #20 machine sat in sixth place in GT4, its nearest brand-mate in 12th thanks to Jamie Caroline who makes his British GT debut with HHC Motorsport in the #58 machine.

Fast laps were underway when the #35 machine finally made it on to the pit apron after diagnosing their power issues as problems with a fuel pump. Not the most accessible part of a GT4 Aston Martin, it took the team most of the session to switch out and get the car on track with less than six minutes on the clock.

Qualifying for the 2 hour penultimate round of the championship gets underway at 16:30 this afternoon and will be covered live on TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk. The race tomorrow will also live blogged on this site, but can also be watched live on SRO’s GTWorld Youtube channel and the British GT website.

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