Academy starts up front in GT4
Lamborghini pips McLaren by combined 0.023s
Cowley and Signoretti power their Mustang to second class pole of the season
Adam Balon and Sandy Mitchell will start today’s Intelligent Money British GT Championship race at Spa-Francorchamps from pole position after clinching top spot by just 0.023s from Nick Halstead and Jamie Stanley.
A stunning final flying lap from 2020 champion Mitchell recorded the session’s best and fastest-ever British GT lap around Spa. The Scot’s 2m16.984s was less than a tenth quicker than Jamie Stanley’s erstwhile benchmark, and just enough to set the fastest combined time across both 10-minute sessions.
The qualifying lap record also tumbled in GT4, although Sennan Fielding’s individual excellence wasn’t enough to beat the combined speed of Academy Motorsport’s Marco Signoretti and Matt Cowley who claimed their second pole of the season by 1.1 seconds from Steller Motorsport’s Audi, which also featured Richard Williams.
GT3: MITCHELL’S LATE MAGIC DOES IT FOR BARWELL
Sandy Mitchell left it to the very final seconds of qualifying to snatch pole position at Spa-Francorchamps for himself and Adam Balon in Barwell Motorsport’s Lamborghini Huracan, the pair emerging from a tight scrap for top spot on the final lap.
When qualifying entered its crunch-time final moments, the top two boiled down to being either Barwell or Jamie Stanley and Nick Halstead’s Fox Motorsport McLaren. The two cars began the second half of qualifying fourth and fifth, with the Fox car holding a half-tenth advantage over Barwell.
Both Halstead and Balon ended their runs 0.5s shy of provisional pole-sitter Paddock Motorsport, which had supersub Graham Davidson to thank for its fast start after he topped the opening segment. Davidson – the 2019 champion – hit the front towards the end of the first session once Enduro’s Morgan Tillbrook and 2 Seas’ James Cottingham had disputed top spot early on.
That particular battle was settled in 2 Seas’ favour when Tillbrook had his second and faster, lap scratched for a track limits infringement. Nevertheless, his banker was still good enough for third: two tenths slower than Davidson’s Q1 benchmark and a shade shy of Cottingham who wound up 0.167s adrift of Paddock’s 720S.
Behind Halstead and Balon came Team Abba Racing’s Richard Neary, who rounded out an initial top six covered by as many tenths.
Part two began with Stanley setting an electric pace to move Fox into provisional pole. His time, but not combined position, was then bettered by Lewis Williamson, Lewis Proctor and Jules Gounon before Mitchell’s first run moved Barwell’s Lamborghini to the top of the order.
Stanley wasn’t done though, and went purple again on his next run to re-establish Fox’s advantage. And when Mitchell could only fractionally improve on his own PB the game appeared to be up.
Not so, as it turned out, for the Scot surprised everyone – including his own team – by wringing a new qualifying lap record from the Huracan on its final flying lap.
Following post-qualifying checks, the Fox and Paddock Motorsport McLarens were moved to the back of the grid due to non-compliance with the requirements of the balance of performance.
That elevated the 2 Seas Mercedes-AMG of Williamson and Cottingham to second, with Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton third.
Paddock, meanwhile, drops from its provisional fifth place, moving the championship-leading RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG of Ian Loggie and Jules Gounon to fourth. Loggie could only manage to set the eighth-fastest time in Q1, but Gounon did underline RAM’s raw pace though, by lapping just a tenth slower than Mitchell in the Pro session.
Behind, the best of the Silver-Am entries share row three after the post-race events, with Sam Neary backing up the good work of his father Richard to beat class points leaders Alex Malykhin and James Dorlin to the class pole. It was still an impressive performance for Silver-Am championship leaders Malykhin and Dorlin though, who are making a one-off appearance with a Porsche this weekend.
GT4: SIGNORETTI SHINES ON FIRST VISIT TO SPA
Having never even been to Spa-Francorchamps before this weekend, Canadian driver Marco Signoretti produced a remarkable qualifying performance which, when combined with fine work by team-mate Matt Cowley, resulted in the Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang being near-unbeatable in the fight for pole.
The opening segment of qualifying was shaping up to be a tightly-fought affair, with Kevin Tse first setting the top time in the guesting Herberth Motorsport Porsche 718 Cayman, only to be pipped by Jamie Day’s R Racing Aston Martin and then Jordan Collard’s Toyota Gazoo Racing GR Supra. All three were covered by just a matter of tenths, but then came Signoretti who pulled a mighty 1.2s clear of the lot with his first effort, before then improving again to eventually craft an unassailable 1.284s gap by the end of the session.
With the Pros taking over for the second segment, the likelihood of any one driver being able to overturn that deficit looked slim, but that didn’t stop a host from having a good crack at it.
Sennan Fielding did the best job in the Steller Motorsport Audi R8 LMS, putting in the best lap of the combined sessions, but even then it was only good enough to move the Audi up to second, still some 1.3s down on the Mustang’s combined time, with Cowley successfully ramming home the advantage. However, it could perhaps have been more for Steller had Richard Williams not seen his fastest lap removed for straying beyond track limits.
Josh Miller built on Day’s performance to help the R Racing Vantage to third on the grid, just ahead of Jamie Orton and Seb Hopkins’ Team Parker Racing Porsche 718 Cayman. Ashley Marshall and Moh Ritson were the fastest of the McLaren runners, with their #26 Paddock Motorsport 570S winding up fifth, ahead of Tom Edgar and Jordan Collard’s Toyota.
A special mention must go to Assetto Motorsport and its drivers Joe Wheeler and Freddie Tomlinson who will start seventh. The team worked wonders to rebuild the car after a nasty accident during FP2 that left it with heavy damage front and rear. However, both drivers put in great performances to keep themselves in the fight.
Newbridge Motorsport worked a wonder of its own, having suffered front-end damage that ruled them out of the entirety of FP2. The outright and Pro-Am GT4 championship leaders had been chasing a brake issue all weekend, but Matt Topham and Darren Turner did enough to grab eighth on the grid and claim another Pro-Am pole.
Sunday 24 July
09:00 – 09:15: Warm-up
12:25 – 14:25: 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
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 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 – #15 RAM Racing – John Ferguson & Ulysse De Pauw
15s – #72 Barwell Motorsport – Adam Balon & Sandy Mitchell
10s – #32 Redline Racing – Alex Malykhin & James Dorlin
20s – #90 Century Motorsport – Will Burns & Jack Brown
15s – #61 Academy Motorsport – Matt Cowley & Marco Signoretti
10s – #27 Newbridge Motorsport – Matt Topham & Darren Turner
All GT4 Silver Cup entries must serve an additional 26 seconds during their mandatory driver changes and carry 25kg of ballast.