Peter Kox and Nico Pronk (above in their Lamborghini) won the war of attrition that was the thirty-minute qualifying session ahead of tomorrow’s Avon Tyres British GT Championship finale at the Donington Park circuit in Leicestershire. Team WFR’s Jody Fannin and Warren Hughes will start from the front of GT4 for the ninth time this year, and FF Corse’s Gary Eastwood and Ryan Hooker cruised to the GTC class pole.
Reiter Engineering duo, Kox and Pronk, appearing in the championship for the first time in 2012, stormed to pole position with a scintillating time of 1:28.082, almost two and a half seconds quicker than last years pole time. Despite not being able to score points here this weekend, Kox and Pronk were determined to secure pole, returning to the track in the dying minutes to better their then third placed time.
Earlier in the session, Danish driver Allan Simonsen, competing for the first time in three races was carrying on from where he left off in the second free practice session of the day. The RossoVerde driver stuck his Ferrari 458 on provisional pole quickly and in doing so re-established himself in the top order of British GT drivers.
Joining the 2012 grid for the first time this weekend was Portuguese driver, Alvaro Parente. The United Autosports charge is no stranger to British GT / F3 weekends, having clinched the British F3 Championship back in 2005. Parente took little time to make his mark, goingsecond quickest in the McLaren MP4-12c before handing over to joint team-owner, Zak Brown, racing here for the first time since his Formula Ford 1600 win in 1991. Parente and Brown would finish second overall, despite late challenges from the Ferraris of Rosso Verde’s Simonsen and championship leaders MTECH.
Beechdean Motorsport’s Jonny Adam joined Parente in firing an early warning shot to his rivals by going third, as he and team-mate Andrew Howard sought to earn their first pole position of the 2012 season. Unfortunately the Aston Martin pair could only finish sixth overall at the end of the thirty-minute session, albeit some two seconds ahead of the fellow Aston Martin entry of Phil Dryburgh and John Gaw (Cyber Racing AMR).
By the midpoint of the session, the top fifteen cars were covered by under a second, a fascinating achievement for the twenty-six strong grid. By this point few championship contenders had showntheir hand.
Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron tried to set an early quick time, but Griffin struggled with a traction control issue that limited running for the MTECH pair earlier in the day. However, with a handful of minutes remaining, Griffin wrestled the 458 up to an impressive fourth overall, the quickest of his title rivals.
Having clinched their third successive teams title earlier in the year, Trackspeed had all eyes on the drivers championship. David Ashburn lies fourth in the points and co-driver Phil Keen managed thetraffic well to post the fifth quickest time of the day, seven hundredths off Griffin’s Ferrari. Fellow Trackspeed title contenders Steve Tandy and Joe Osborne finished eleventh, three hundredths of a second behind the second United Autosports McLaren of Charles Bateman and Matt Bell.
Kent-based squad, Motorbase had a busy qualifying session. Michael Caine had the #11 Porsche running as high as sixth before the late rally from his rivals, eventually finishing the session eighth ahead of team-mates Steve Parish and Stephen Jelley in the #10 Motorbase Porsche.
Despite going into the weekend as MTECH’s nearest rival in the points table, Barwell Motorsports’ team boss Mark Lemmer said the pressure was off his Ecurie Ecosse drivers Alasdair McCaig and Oliver Bryant. Thirty year-old McCaig ran the opening stint of qualifying well amidst the professional drivers attempting to secure pole.
When Bryant took over and was given new Avon rubber, the BMW Z4 was bothering the provisional top-five qualifiers; a 1:29.008 good enough for fifth at that stage, eventually resulting in a rowfour start for the pair.
Following a gearbox change in their Nissan GT-R in the second free practice session of the day, Jann Mardenborough andAlex Buncombe were confident of an improved run in qualifying. Despite smashing last years pole time, the pair who lie third in the points table, struggled to match the pace of the top-ten runners and settled for fourteenth place ahead of tomorrows two-hour decider.
After a strong finish at Silverstone sealed the 2012 GT4 Drivers Championship for Jody Fannin and Warren Hughes, the pair arrived at Donington Park with the pressure off. It didn’t show on track with the pair immediately launching past the Jota Mazda and taking provisional pole with a lap of 1:36.524.
Looking to finish on a high were Mazda’s Mark Ticehurst and Owen Mildenhall. With reliability issues behind them, both drivers outpaced the Century Motorsports Ginetta G50 and a time of 1:37.825sees them line up alongside Fannin and Hughes on row twelve.
Vice Champion in the GT4 class this year, Zoe Wenham will start third in the PE Group-backed Ginetta. Team-mate Dom Evanswrestled with the car and the pair closed the gap on the Mazda to just fourtenths of a second.
Another title due to be decided this weekend is that of GTC Champion. Ferrari team, FF Corse who joined the series at Snetterton lead the way by almost nineteen points from David Witt and Ray Grimes in the Jordan Racing prepared Chevron GR8. It was FF Corse’s Gary Eastwood and Ryan Hooker that showed their intent first, and once Hooker had posted a time in the low 1:30s, the Jordan Racing pair didn’t look able to go better. As the session passed the halfway point, the Chevron GR8 stopped oncircuit causing a red flag, but the car will start tomorrows race.
Peter Kox, Reiter Engineering LamborghiniLP560-4 (First in GT3)
“As soon as Nico started we had a problem with the gearbox and it wouldn’t select the downshift properly, then it did, then it didn’t. It qas quite annoying and I think Nico struggled more than me. I was quite lucky and only had the issue on one lap. I think it’s just a calibration issue with the gearbox so it should be something we can overcome easily. We’re on the pace but it isn’t the easiest track in the world and Nico is a gentleman driver so we have to see how it goes, we’ll do our very best though. It’s a fantastic championship, it looks very good and the drivers are very strong.”
Full times from qualifying are available here
The two-hour racebegins tomorrow at 2:40pm, with updates available on Twitter and Facebook throughout the weekend.
Championship points after round six:
1. Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin MTECH 113pts
2. Alasdair McCaig Ecurie Ecosse 112.5pts
3. Jann Mardenborough/Alex Buncombe RJN Motorsport 108.5pts
4. David Ashburn Trackspeed 104.5pts
5. Daniele Perfetti/Michael Caine Motorbase 103.5pts
6. Charles Bateman/Matt Bell United Autosports 83.5pts
7. Steve Tandy/Joe Osborne Trackspeed 81.5pts
8. Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam Beechdean 75pts
1. Jody Fannin/Warren Hughes Team WFR 224.5pts - CHAMPIONS
2. Zoe Wenham Century Motorsport 145.5pts
3. Dominic Evans Century Motorsport 118.5pts
4. James May/Alex Osborne APO Sport 104.5pts
1. Gary Eastwood/Ryan Hooker FF Corse 43.75
2. David Witt/Ray Grimes Jordan Racing 25
Donington Park Timetable:
Sun 30 Sept: 9:35-9:45 Warm-up; 14:40-16:40 Race
Image by Jakob Ebrey Jakob Ebrey Photography
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