Stephen Jelley and Steve Parish took pole position for today’s two-hour endurance race in their #10 Motorbase Porsche 997 GT3 R, and Warren Hughes and Jody Fannin snatched the GT4 classpole position in a hotly contested qualifying session at a sunny Rockinghamcircuit yesterday.
Motorbase worked tirelessly to re-build the rear-end of the #10 car after an earlier off by Parish in the second free practice session threatened to prevent the pair from qualifying. However, an act of good will from fellow Porsche team, Trackspeed saw the double Teams Champions lend Motorbase the necessary parts to get the car into qualifying.
The thirty-minute qualifying was fascinating; times tumbled throughout and at the end the top-ten GT3 cars were separated by little over a second, similarly the top three in GT4 also were within a second too.
Early leaders were Rosso Verde’s Allan Simonsen and Hector Lester; Simonsen’s lap of 1:23.590 laid down the gauntlet by some margin and it was MTECH, another Ferrari team that gave chase and eventually overcame Simonsen’s time. However, MTECH’s Matt Griffin lost this time due to exceeding the track limits, leaving Simonsen on top once more.
From thebeginning of the session, a lot of teams chose to field their less experienced driver first, a tactic which had mixed results. Team WFR put former Formula 3 driver, Riki Christodoulou in and the youngster posted a time of 1:24.679, good enough for third; team-mate Jody Firth was unable to better this due to a drive issue with their Ginetta G55. Less successful with the tactic were John Dhillon and Aaron Scott. Dhillon went out early to get experience of the track, but the Leicester-based driver outbraked himself and pitched his Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari 458 into the gravel at Kirby.
For the majority of the session it was the Lotus Sport UK pair of Phil Glew and Sailesh Bolisetti that set the pace in GT4. Former touring car star, Glew made the most of a window of little on track traffic and posted a succession of quick times, the best being a 1:30.587. Also pushing hard in only their second race were the APO Sport duo, Alex Osborne and James May. Osborne pushed their yellow and silver Ginetta G50 to with six tenths of Glew’s time and over a second ahead of Ginetta rivals, Zoe Wenham and Dominic Evans.
Anthony Reid is something of an old hand at qualifying and the experienced British driver took the new Chevron to within the overall top five places initially; the car showed good pace and was the seventh quickest overall in the speed traps. Despite the efforts of Jordan Witt the pair didn’t better their time and finished thirteenth overall.
Rockingham has traditionally favoured the balance of the Porsche in previous years, and 2012 proved to be no exception. The #11 Motorbase Porsche of Michael Caine and Daniele Perfetti exchanged times at the sharp end with former Porsche Carrera Cup GB ace, Caine on board, and a time of 1:23.456 saw them qualify third, providing them with ample opportunity to add to their impressive points haul already achieved this season.
Good Samaritans, Trackspeed, unsurprisingly edged up the timesheet with their more experienced drivers in place. Phil Keen, deputising for the Le Mans bound Richard Westbrook led home the trio of Porsches in seventh, with Joe Osborne a tenth off him in eighth, and ex-BTCC charger, Tim Harvey, tenth and half a second off Keen. It wasn’t plain sailing for Berkshire-based Keen though, an off later in the session caused minor damage to the front underside of the car he shares with 2010 Champion, David Ashburn.
Just ahead of Harvey and Minshaw’s tenth placed Porsche was the Nissan GT-R of Jann Mardenborough and Alex Buncombe. Their RJN Nissan again outqualified the rival JMH car (14th) and were a second off pole position on the tricky International Long circuit at Rockingham
Separated by two tenths in fifth and sixth were Beechdean’s Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam and the BMW of Ecurie Ecosse’s Alasdair McCaig and Oliver Bryant. While the #007 numbered Aston had pace from the outset, the BMW’s times were more progressive, and try as hard as they might, couldn’t break into the top-five.
With Ferrari driver Griffin now topping the GT3 class with his impressive lap of 1:23.437, it was Stephen Jelley who would ensure Porsche again topped the timesheets at Rockingham. Jelley, who finished third in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB last year, created some space for himself on a crowded track and fired the #10 Motorbase Porsche to pole with a time of 1:23.380, just five hundredths of a second quicker than Griffin.
After some initial laps from team-mate Fannin, Warren Hughes suffering from flu was now fixed in the Team WFR Ginetta G50 and immediately took time out of Glew’s Lotus. A late charge from the Le Mans star gave him pole position for the race, albeit it by four hundredths from the #48 Lotus of Glew and Bolisetti.
Bringingupgrades to Rockingham were Mazda, the most obvious, a rear wing for the new MX-5 GT4. Free practice was however dogged by a turbo issue, and drivers Owen Mildenhall and Mark Ticehurst were hoping to get some laps under their beltduring the half an hour qualifying session. Despite the best efforts of their Jota team, neither driver had the opportunity and the car lines up last for the race later this afternoon.
Today’s two-hour endurance race gets underway at 15:25 BST, and you can follow the action with live text commentary via our Twitter account http://www.twitter.com/BritishGT
Race Five Top Ten Provisional Qualifying Times:
1. Steve Parish/Stephen Jelley Motorbase Porsche 997 GT3 R 1:23:380
2. Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin MTECH Ferrari 458 1:23:437
3. Danielle Perfetti/Michael Caine Motorbase Porsche 997 GT3 R 1:23:456
4. Hector Lester/Allan Simonsen Rosso Verde Ferrari 458 1:23.590
5. Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam Beechdean Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage 1:23.709
6. Alasdair McCaig/Oliver Bryant Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 1:23.919
7. David Ashburn/Phil Keen Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R 1:24.008
8. Steve Tandy/Joe Osborne Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R 1:24.112
9. Jann Mardenborough/Alex Buncombe RJN Motorsports Nissan GT-R 1:24.383
10. Jon Minshaw/Tim Harvey Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R 1:24.597
1. Jody Fannin/Warren Hughes Team WFR Ginetta G50 1:30.545
2. Sailesh Bolisetti/Phil Glew Lotus Sport UK Lotus Evora GT4 1:30.587
3. James May/Alex Osborne APOSport UK Ginetta G50 1:31.121
4. Marco Attard/Alistair Mackinnon Lotus Sport UK Lotus Evora GT4 1:32.375
5. Zoe Wenham/Dom Evans Century Motorsport 1:33.253
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