Congratulations go to Barwell Motorsport for taking a hotly contested first free practice session in the 2021 Intelligent Money British GT Championship meeting at Oulton Park. Commiserations go to Barwell Motorsport for having two substantial repair jobs to do after the first free practice session in the 202…..
Congratulations also need to be extended to Darren Turner who proved his factory pro status in GT4 by romping to the head of the class in the Newbridge Motorsport run V8 Vantage AMR. With the best of the Pirelli rubber spent before a red flag to the session, the early laps were the fastest.
GT3: Early Pace and Long Repair Work for Barwell.
With a history of success at Oulton Park, Barwell Motorsport probably went into the first free practice session expecting as close as you can get to an easy ride in the British GT Championship. It really wasn’t the session they had expected!
Fortunately for the defending teams champions, who could theoretically retain that title at this event, the quick laps in free practice 1 came early in the morning running. So when first the #63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO of Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind went out of action due to an accident, then the #1 car returned to the pit lane with a damaged V10 in the back, the outfit had already taken the top spot.
Starting out on a cool, but not cold, morning with the circuit still showing signs of overnight rains in places, meant that many of the runners opted to stay in the garage early on. Those that ventured out had the job of clearing the moisture, but also reaped the benefit of a near deserted racetrack. That led to rapid times early on and Sandy Mitchell‘s top spot on just the third lap of the session.
It was Marcus Clutton who set the first representative time, the Enduro Motorsport pilot being quickly surpassed by the defending champion then handing over to Morgan Tillbrook. Mitchell’s time came on his last lap before handing over the #1 Lamborghini to Adam Balon for the balance of the session.
It looked like 2006 British GT Champion and experienced Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS racer Leo Machitski would knock the team mate car off the top spot. He was sat in fourth place and claimed a personal best in the opening sector when a mistake saw the #63 rotating towards the barrier. Machitski was unharmed in the incident but the car was out of action for the rest of the session and we were denied Dennis Lind’s attempt to topple his team mate.
Of course with a car off and damage to barriers, the red flags were shown and the session stopped.
When action got back underway, the #1 machine was sitting pretty at the top of the time sheets and the British GT tyre regulations meant that it was unlikely anyone would put on a fresh set of Pirellis to go for the top spot in practice. What should have been an easy session for the Barwell mechanics, resting up while their other car was recovered to the pit lane soon turned anything but.
Balon came back early to the pits with an engine issue. Reports are that the V10 power unit had dropped at least one valve whilst out on track and would need to be replaced. That meant that the crew had to repair a high speed off on one car and replace the engine in another. Neither job is the work of a moment and neither car is expected to make it back to the track before qualifying.
So with the pace setter out of action, Enduro Motorsport sat in second place. Team Parker Racing‘s Scott Malvern took a shot at displacing the McLaren but while he got ahead of Team ABBA Racing‘s Mercedes, he couldn’t catch the circuits resident racing driver. The Porsche 911 GT3 R claimed third place.
Fifth went to Jonny Adam in the Aston Martin he shares with Andrew Howard for Beechdean AMR while RAM Racing‘s title hopefuls took sixth. Sister Mercedes, the #88 single round entry for Kevin Tse and Tom Onslow-Cole, lined up behind just ahead of the Michael Igoe/Phil Keen driven Huracan of WPI Motorsport.
Paddock Motorsport, Balfe Motorsport and the stricken #63 rounded out the GT3 runners.
GT4: Newbridge’s Turner Hits Hardest First.
A combination of a decade of factory experience and a red flag stoppage just as most cars had got their tyres to the best condition meant that no-one at Oulton Park could best the first proper flying lap from Darren Turner. 1:43.787 was the time, and only the reigning GT4 champion Jamie Caroline could get within shouting distance, 0.229 seconds off the Aston Martin.
Caroline is subbing for Scott McKenna who has campaigned the Toyota GR Supra GT4 all season, and was one of the few with a realistic hope of matching or exceeding Turners pace. Jamie raced an Aston Martin V8 Vantage AMR GT4 all last year in the championship so knows better than most what the car can do.
Third went to the Ginetta G56 GT4 of Assetto Motorsport and factory ace Charlie Robertson who outpaced the Car Gods by Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4; Jake Giddings had the wheel for the fastest lap, with four of the five pro drivers huddled at the top of the timesheets.
The only other pro/am entry comes from Fox Motorsport, Jamie Stanley filling the pro role there. The #40 car ended the session 2.5 seconds off front running pace but an alarming 23rd overall and 12th in the GT4 category. In fact only the #4 Team Rocket RJN McLaren of Harry Hayek placed lower in the session, six other Silver Cup entries placed ahead of the pro.
Fastest in the Silver Cup class went to Steller Motorsport‘s Sennan Fielding. Sharing with team owner Richard Williams, Fielding slid the Audi R8 LMS GT4 into fifth, the last car in the first second. While that doesn’t sound much it’s important to note that Sennan is a Silver graded driver while Darren Turner has raced in two different world championship racing series in the past decade.
Signs for the GT4 championship leaders aren’t encouraging headed into the final three rounds of the championship. Their team mates and the only other car on the grid capable of catching their current points tally, placed ahead of them in practice.
Of course this is the pair of BMW M4 GT4s from Century Motorsport which finished in 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Silver Cup class. Chris Salkeld set the time for the #9 machine, one of the few cars to improve after the stoppage. Likewise the team car of Will Burns and laptime setter Gus Burton improved later in the hour, after Salkeld had laid down a marker. The #57 machine was unable to match the pace of the sister car.
In Team Rocket RJN it was s similar story, Michael Benyahia bettering Jordan Collard‘s best efforts. That isn’t a normal state of affairs, the privately funded #2 McLaren has spend much of the year outpacing its two McLaren Driver Development Programme stablemates.
Second practice gets underway at lunchtime today with an hour of action from 12:20. Commentary is available on BritishGT.com via the live timing link.