Balfe and Mitchell beat 2 Seas to GT3 top spot
Closest-ever combined qualifying session goes Rowledge and Millar’s way in GT4
Marciello and Clark both smash previous lap records
Barwell Motorsport’s Shaun Balfe and Sandy Mitchell will start Round 4 of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship from pole position after setting a scintillating pace at a sun-kissed Donington Park.
Behind, Josh Rowledge and Aston Millar claimed GT4 top spot by the smallest possible margin after a back-and-forth battle with Raceway Motorsport’s #56 Ginetta. Just 0.001s – a new combined championship record – separated the DTO Motorsport McLaren from Freddie Tomlinson and Stuart Middleton whose late improvement was chalked off for a track limits infringement.
That margin matched the individual record held by Lewis Proctor who beat Jordan Witt to pole at Oulton Park in 2020.
Elsewhere, Donington’s winter resurfacing work ensured both qualifying lap records tumbled. Raffaele Marciello’s 1m23.689s was 1.8s faster than Marcus Clutton’s previous outright benchmark, while Charles Clark (1m32.334s) was a similar amount under Darren Turner’s erstwhile GT4 best.
GT3: BARWELL BACK WITH A BANG
Barwell’s new Lamborghinis had failed to shine at Oulton and, in terms of outright pace, last time out at Silverstone, too. But their potential wasn’t in doubt at Donington where Balfe set Q1’s fastest time before Mitchell’s lap – only just beaten by Marciello – sealed the deal by a combined 0.399s.
Several drivers spent time at the top of Q1’s leaderboard. James Cottingham was the first to set a representative lap, which matched Clutton’s qualifying record and underlined the new surface’s extra grip.
2 Seas’ #4 Mercedes-AMG would eventually end the session second fastest, but not before several others had jumped ahead and then dropped back behind.
Balfe was next to go quickest and was joined on the provisional front row by Lucky Khera who lapped just 0.08s slower in RACE LAB’s McLaren. Mark Sansom then vaulted to the top before Andrew Howard appeared to have settled things in Beechdean AMR’s favour.
But that didn’t account for Balfe who regrouped and went faster again on his final flyer. Likewise Cottingham, although his best was two tenths slower than Q1’s new benchmark.
Mitchell thus enjoyed a handy head start and made sure of P1 by doubling Barwell’s advantage in Q2. In truth, the duo’s combined pole position was never
Second proved less clear cut, however. Ross Gunn was fast throughout and briefly moved Beechdean’s Aston onto the front row before Jonny Adam matched the Aston Martin and re-took second overall for 2 Seas.
Championship leader Dan Harper helped Century move from fifth to fourth in the BMW he shares with Darren Leung, while Marvin Kirchhoefer – who twice set fastest time – picked up two positions after Alexander West initially qualified seventh. However, a 10-place grid drop will see Garage 59’s McLaren start 15th tomorrow.
RACE LAB’s Khera and Euan Hankey were the chief beneficiaries of that penalty. Their McLaren moves to fifth and shares row three with Silver-Am’s fastest crew, Sansom and Will Tregurtha, who capped a fine day for Barwell.
But the same can’t be said for 2 Seas’ Ian Loggie and Jules Gounon whose lack of pace compared to the other leading Mercedes-AMGs was noticeable. They start alongside RAM’s John Ferguson and Marciello, who denied Mitchell the fastest individual time by setting a new qualifying lap record on his final lap after surviving a major moment at the Fogarty Esses earlier in Q2.
GT4: MILLAR AND ROWLEDGE EDGE RACEWAY IN QUALIFYING THRILLER
Millar and Rowledge will go down in British GT history after coming out on top of the championship’s closet-ever combined qualifying duel.
The two 15-minute sessions boiled down to a straight fight between DTO’s drivers and Tomlinson and Middleton (Raceway Motorsport) after the two crews proved virtually inseparable throughout.
Rowledge struck the first blow in Q1 by putting DTO’s McLaren 0.7s clear of the field with his first effort, but Tomlinson wasn’t fazed and quickly overhauled that by 0.013s. The latter looked to be in control until Rowledge went for one more lap and snuck ahead by 0.082s to lead the way at half-time.
After the switch, the to-and-fro fight continued, now with Millar in the Artura and Middleton installed in the G56. Middleton got the first representative lap time in to take a slender aggregate lead, but then Millar underlined how tight the battle would be by replicating the time exactly to restore Q1’s difference in DTO’s favour.
Both drivers then improved again, albeit with Middleton being marginally the faster of the two but winding up an agonising 0.001s shy of pole on combined times. GT4’s 2017 champion did manage to briefly sneak ahead on his final run but the lap was wiped for track limits, which sealed the closest-ever result in Rowledge and Millar’s favour.
The fight for the fastest time of the session was found further back where a superb effort from Charles Clark helped himself and team-mate Jack Brown to third on the grid in Optimum Motorsport’s McLaren. His best was some 0.2s quicker than the contenders for pole could manage but still left the #90 Artura two tenths shy of the front row on combined times.
A great effort from Darren Burke elevated Enduro Motorsport’s McLaren from 11th to fourth, while Tom Wrigley and Ian Gough secured the Pro-Am class pole with their RACE LAB McLaren in fifth overall.
Josh Miller and Seb Hopkins put the R Racing Aston Martin sixth, with Paddock Motorsport’s Kavi Jundu and Tom Rawlings seventh overall and second in Pro-Am. Carl Cavers and Lewis Plato’s Century Motorsport BMW M4 was third in the Pro-Am order and completed the top eight.
Warm-up begins at 09:45, Circuit Safari takes centre stage 25 minutes later, and the two-hour race goes green at 13:00. Watch all three live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel.