The first sprint round of the 2021 Intelligent Money British GT Championship season will take place tomorrow with the grid now set ahead of two 1 hour encounters at Snetterton. Qualifying was its usual thrilling display of raw speed, delayed by over an hour due to a fire in the paddock at the circuit. Four ten minute sessions set two grids ahead of the racing on Sunday with TF Sport and Team Rocket RJN claiming the poles for the first race and Barwell Motorsport and Assetto Motorsport celebrating the top spots in qualifying for race 2.
Ahmad Al Harthy dominant in GT3 AM Qualifying.
With two free practice sessions in changeable conditions, qualifying took place in almost perfect weather and was the teams first real look at a dry, but green Snetterton 300 circuit. Initial pace went to the WPI Motorsport Lamborghini of Michael Igoe with Andrew Howard‘s Beechdean AMR entry and Adam Balon for Barwell also taking turns at the top of the timesheets.
Then came the best efforts of Ahmad Al Harthy in the new look TF Sport Aston Martin V8 Vantage AMR GT3. It was the Omani driver’s first competitive laps in Norfolk since 2015, though he did benefit from some testing during 2020 Media Day ahead of the Oman Racing Team’s aborted campaign last year. A 1:50 dead was his first effort before a second lap lowered the pole time to a 1:49.237, 0.841 seconds clear at the front of the field.
Second place went to Paddock Motorsport, the Bentley Continental of Kelvin Fletcher. Second place was pretty much all that any of the 10 drivers not from Oman could hope for and the battle was intense. Enduro Motorsport‘s Morgan Tillbrook took the inside of the second row of the grid alongside the #1 machine of Adam Balon.
Michael Igoe ended up fifth ahead of Howard, whose second attempt was disallowed due to track limits infringements with Machitski, Loggie, Proctor and Jones rounding out the top ten. The G-Cat Racing Porsche recovered well from a scary off track moment earlier in the day, but couldn’t get within a second of the top ten at the hands of Shamus Jennings.
Barwell Celebrating Lind’s Lap for Pole.
The second session was reserved for Pro drivers, except for two cars Am driver Greg Caton took the session in the G-Cat entry while silver driver Lewis Proctor was denied the chance at qualifying when father Stewart returned to the pit lane with a gear box problem in the Balfe Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3. Of course up against factory Pros, there was little chance of greatness for Caton, who finished the session in 10th place and 2.442 seconds behind Scott Malvern‘s Team Parker Racing run Porsche.
The 911s will come in two by two.
At the front of the grid there is a bit more of a mix. Phil Keen aboard the WPI Lamboghini looked good early on, the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 has enjoyed great success at Snetterton over the years, with a 50% win rate to date. Oulton Park’s own Pro driver Marcus Clutton also impressed with leading pace in the early laps. Next up to lead was Jonny Adam‘s Beechdean Aston Martin who banged in a 1:47.808.
Only two drivers would go faster than the Scotsman, Yelmer Buurman‘s RAM Racing Mercedes snuck in 0.156 ahead of Adam while Dennis Lind denied the Mercedes by 0.004 seconds. Its one of the tightest pole margins in recent British GT memory.
Lind’s team mate and reigning Champion Sandy Mitchell took fourth place ahead of the Enduro machine of Clutton. Charlie Eastwood was forced to settle for 6th in the race 1 pole sitting car with Phil Keen taking seventh for WPI. Martin Plowman put the Paddock Motorsport Bentley into eighth place ahead of the paired up Porsches.
Alain Valente Rockets to Race 1 Pole in GT4.
The opening hand from Swiss racer Alain Valente would have done the job of securing pole. A second lap which spread the distance to Team Rocket RJN’s nearest competitor only served as insurance. That being said it was again, a very competitive session with 2nd to 7th covered by less time that 1st to 2nd.
Runaway championship leaders Will Burns from Century Motorsport was the best of the rest, securing second place by 0.128 seconds from Academy Motorsport‘s Will Moore aboard the only Ford Mustang in the field. Fourth place went to the #2 McLaren 570S GT4 of James Kell, the Team Rocket RJN entry is racing in minimal livery this weekend after being replaced with an ex-Pure McLaren machine after it’s incident at Spa-Francorchamps. Balfe Motorsport and the final Team Rocket machine completed a McLaren 4-5-6.
The second Century machine of Chris Salkeld took seventh ahead of Richard Williams for Steller Motorsport. John Ferguson for Toyota Gazoo Racing and Mark Samson for Assetto Motorsport rounded out the top ten.
Ginetta Claims Pole for Second GT4 Session.
In the final qualifying session of the day it was former Ginetta LMP1 driver Charlie Robertson who set the pace. Again, the Assetto Motorsport machine put in two lap times which would have assured the Samson/Robertson duo the top spot in the new for 2021 Ginetta G56 GT4.
Initially it looked like the #3 Team Rocket RJN car might do the double, Michael Benyahia taking the top spot early on but he was displaced by championship leaders Century Motorsport thanks to Gus Burton. The #57 BMW was knocked to second by Robertson who took the top spot by a tenth after the first attempts and extended that lead to 0.4 seconds after the second laps. Darren Turner‘s Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin finally displaced the BMW as the session started winding down to a close with Jordan Collard completing the tumble to 4th soon after.
Fifth went to the race 1 pole sitters thanks to Michael Benyahia with Scott McKenna claiming sixth for the Toyota GR Supra GT4. Academy Motorsport’s Mustang sits seventh ahead of the Car Gods by Cicely Motorsport Mercedes of Jake Giddings and Harry Hayek in the #4 RJN McLaren. The top ten was rounded out by Balfe Motorsport’s Ashley Marshall.
The Steller Performance Audi R8 LMS GT4 of Sennan Fielding completed a dubious honour in the final session. The #42 machine was the only car in the field to have fastest lap times disallowed in both it’s qualifying sessions due to track limits violations. 11th was the best that the Audi crew could achieve in the Pro fight as a result.