Sandy Mitchell and Ciaran Haggerty picked up where they left off with pole for Round 1 of the 2017 British GT championship, with Century Motorsport’s Anna Walewska and Mike Simpson heading the pack for Round 2.
Momentum is definitely on the side of the Black Bull Garage 59 pairing of Mitchell and Haggerty, with the McLaren academy drivers continuing their strong form from 2016. Surprisingly though, whilst the gap from the first to the second row was over a second, the distance between the top 2 was a mere hundredth of a second – really! Sandy Mitchell brought the #100 McLaren 570S home barely ahead of the #55 HHC Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 of Ginetta Junior converts Stuart Middleton and Will Tregurtha. More surprisingly is that Stuart had a lap disallowed for track limits – showing how hard he was pushing, but also how strong the pace is of the Ginetta. Traditionally a very strong circuit for the Yorkshire-build car, the battle for the win in GT4 isn’t going to be settled in a matter of minutes, that’s for sure.
Further along, the Aston Martin V8 Vantages of Academy Motorsport and Macmillan AMR settled row 2 – Matt Nicoll-Jones qualifying ahead of William Phillips – whilst reigning GT4 champion Graham Johnson in the #501 PWM Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta ended the session 5th. 6th was the second Black Bull car, Akhil Rabindra bringing the #59 home in 6th, with the first of the In2Racing McLarens ending up 7th with Marcus Hoggarth at the helm. 8th was the Track-Club McLaren of Adam Balon, 9th was the Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing car of Matt Chapman (the car being fixed after the crash in FP2), and rounding out the top 10 was Anna Walewska in the #111 Century Motorsport Ginetta. Surprises came lower down in the order too, with the #66 Team Parker Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport of Nick Jones only qualifying in 12th for Race 1, and the RJN Motorsport Nissans of Tim Eakin (#54) and Richard Taffinder (#53) only managing 13th and 15th, showed how competitive GT4 will be in 2017. And that was just Race 1’s grid!
Whilst Anna Walewska could only bring the #111 home in 10th for Race 1, factory Ginetta driver Mike Simpson more than made up for it as he dragged the car up into GT4 pole for Race 2, with the gap to the #100 McLaren ‘only’ 72 hundredths this time around. The #51 Lanan Racing Ginetta of Alex Reed and David Pittard (who qualified it) did significantly better than the 16th in session one, and placed their car 3rd for the GT4 order in Race 2. The #53 Nissan, with Martin Plowman installed into the car, and the #66 with Scott Malvern onboard also made significant progress too – 4th and 5th in class showed how much pace those cars had in the banks. 6th went the way of the #56 Tolman Motorsport McLaren of David Pattison and Joe Osborne (the latter qualified in this session), 7th to the #501 Ginetta, 8th to the #42 Aston Martin, 9th for the #72 McLaren, and the #62 Aston Martin rounding out the top 10.
Will it be McLaren taking the spoils? Can Ginetta’s suitability to the circuit ebb them the advantage? Or, will Aston Martin spring a surprise? We can’t discount the Porsche if it gets a clean run, and with Nissan mixing it in at the front for Race 2, GT4 is going to be where everyone’s eyes should be come Monday.
Image c/o Nick Smith/theimageteam.com