GUNN'S FASTEST TIME NOT ENOUGH TO TOPPLE BARWELL
CENTURY AND TOYOTA GAZOO DENY NEWBRIDGE AT THE LAST
Barwell Motorsport's #63 Lamborghini will start Round 4 of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship at Spa-Francorchamps from pole position thanks to the combined efforts of Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind, while Century Motorsport's GT4 points leaders Will Burns and Gus Burton left it late to deny Newbridge and Toyota Gazoo Racing UK class honours.
Machitski's fastest time in Q1 laid the foundations for a reasonably comfortable half-second advantage over Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn despite the latter – who subs for Jonny Adam this weekend – setting GT3’s ultimate benchmark in Q2. That elevated the Aston Martin above RAM Racing’s Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman who start one place behind the car with which they share the championship lead.
Further back, Newbridge Motorsport appeared on course for GT4 pole courtesy of Darren Turner’s fastest time before late improvements dropped the Aston Martin that also features Matt Topham behind Century’s BMW and the Toyota shared by John Ferguson and Scott McKenna.
GT3: MACHITSKI MAKES EXPERIENCE COUNT
Setting fastest times in testing and opening practice, both of which were held in the dry, suggested Barwell’s #63 Huracan would be a force in qualifying after the day’s earlier rain cleared in time for the GT3 sessions. And so it proved for Machitski, a driver with vast experience of Spa from his previous 24 Hours appearances.
The Russian went fastest on his opening run and remained untouchable thereafter to establish a 0.3s advantage over Team Abba Racing’s Richard Neary whose Mercedes-AMG missed FP2 following an incident this morning.
Joint championship leaders Ian Loggie and Andrew Howard lapped just 0.033s apart but, crucially, seven tenths slower than Machitski, which left their respective co-drivers with work to do in the second 10-minute session.
That was especially true given Dennis Lind’s form over the first two days after the Dane paced testing and FP1. He couldn’t quite repeat the trick in Q2 but his time was more than fast enough to extend Barwell’s overall advantage to 0.544s.
Things might have been different had a track limits infringement not accounted for Sam Neary’s opening effort, before a broken front wishbone ended his qualifying session in spectacular fashion at La Source.
Instead, the second front row grid slot boiled down to a straight shootout between Ross Gunn and Yelmer Buurman who began their runs almost level pegging. Both went faster than Lind, but it was Beechdean’s Aston Martin that ultimately set the weekend’s fastest individual time – 2m19.321s – en route to second in the combined classification.
RAM’s Mercedes-AMG ended up 0.151s behind the Vantage and shares row two with Barwell’s second Lamborghini after Sandy Mitchell vaulted from seventh to fourth.
Stewart and Lewis Proctor both set the fifth fastest times in their sessions to head up row three in Balfe’s McLaren, while WPI’s Phil Keen also consolidated Michael Igoe’s sixth place.
However, Team Parker Racing’s Porsche is unable to race tomorrow following Scott Malvern’s accident at Raidillon in FP2. The driver walked away from the 911 GT3 R but was taken to Verviers hospital for precautionary checks before being released.
Leipert’s Lamborghini was withdrawn earlier in the day after crashing in FP1.
GT4: BURNS AND BURTON SCORE LAST-GASP SPA POLE FOR CENTURY
Will Burns and Gus Burton struck late to secure a second pole position of the season, stealing top spot from both the Newbridge Aston Martin and Toyota Gazoo Racing UK squads on the final lap of the session.
GT4 qualifying turned into an incredibly tight affair with the top six cars being separated by just over a second on combined times at the end, despite the 4.3-mile lap of Spa being the longest of the season. With each crew only getting a maximum of three flying laps in the 10 minutes, each one had to count.
Matt Cowley made the early running in the first session, vaulting his Academy Ford Mustang to the top of the timesheets on his first flying lap, closely followed by both Michael Benyahia in the #3 RJN McLaren and Burns’ #57 Century BMW.
Ashley Marshall threatened to upset that order when he moved Balfe’s #90 McLaren up into second, just 0.378s off Cowley’s best. With each of the top two improving, the pressure was on Burns to respond, and he did so by reclaiming third spot from Benyahia on his final lap, trimming the gap to pole to under half-a-second before handing across to Burton for the second half.
That proved key, as Burton quickly moved the BMW on to provisional pole early in the session, but even then the work wasn’t done.
Matt Topham had left the Newbridge Aston Martin just 1.5s off after the opening session, and with factory driver Darren Turner taking over there was always a chance he could make the difference. Turner went on to set the fastest lap of the session to snatch back top spot, and things looked done and dusted until Burton found a chunk of time just as the chequered flag flew to slip back in front by 0.2s.
To add to Newbridge’s disappointment, a terrific effort from free practice pace
-setter Scott McKenna lifted the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK Supra he shares with John Ferguson into second, just 0.02s ahead of the Aston.
Marshall/Jack Brown’s McLaren wound up fourth, less than 0.5s from pole, with Benyahia/Alain Valente’s RJN McLaren in fifth. Cowley/Will Moore will start sixth in the Mustang, ahead of Chris Salkeld/Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke’s Century BMW. Katie Milner/Harry Hayek’s #4 RJN McLaren completed the top eight.
Today’s live coverage begins with warm-up at 09:00 CEST before the two-hour race gets underway at 12:35 CEST.
Sunday 25 July
09:00 – 09:15: Warm-up
12:35 – 14:35: Race
GT3 – 2m18.821s – Seb Morris – Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 – 2017
GT4 – 2m31.706s – Matthew Graham – Ebor GT Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4 – 2017
PITSTOP SPECIFICS – TWO-HOUR RACE
NEW FOR 2021: The number of driver changes are free but there are minimum and maximum total drive times for the starting driver. In GT4 starting drivers must complete a minimum of 58 minutes, while in GT3/C this rises to 62 minutes. All classes share the same maximum starting drive time of 70 minutes.
Mandatory Pitstop Times (pit-in to pit-out)
GT3: 150s | GT4: 180s
Pitstop Success Penalties
20s – #8 Team Abba Racing – Richard & Sam Neary
15s – #6 RAM Racing – Ian Loggie & Yelmer Buurman
10s – #7 Beechdean AMR – Andrew Howard & Jonny Adam
20s – #57 Century Motorsport – Will Burns & Gus Burton
15s – #9 Century Motorsport – Chris Salkeld & Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke
10s – #40 Fox Motorsport – Nick Halstead & Jamie Stanley (not competing at Spa)
All GT4 Silver Cup entries must serve an additional 26s during their mandatory driver changes and carry 25kg of ballast.