GT3: Championship contenders start up front after Beechdean AMR demoted
GT4: R Racing get the better of DTO
Century Motorsport and R Racing ultimately triumphed in an action-packed damp but drying qualifying session at DoningtonDecider tSaturday afternoon.
Darren Leung and Dan Harper set the second fastest combined time but have been promoted to pole after Beechdean AMR – along with three other entries – were found to have completed just one timed lap in Q1. Each driver must set two, per Championship Regulation 41.4.
Ross Gunn earlier topped both practice sessions but had his co-driver Andrew Howard to thank for starting Q2 with a 0.3s advantage. That then increased to 1.5s on aggregate over Century’s BMW, while 2 Seas’ Ian Loggie and Jules Gounon rounded out GT3’s initial top-three before the Aston Martin was demoted.
Unlike GT3, there was only one sensible tyre choice for GT4’s qualifying sessions in which Mike Simpson (Toro Verde GT) comfortably set fastest individual time to take eighth overall and Pro-Am pole with James Townsend. However, it will be Josh Miller and Seb Hopkins who start the finale up front after turning their initial, and very slender, 0.003s lead over DTO’s Josh Rowledge and Aston Millar into a 0.219s advantage.
Championship favourites Jack Brown and Charles Clark line up third in Optimum’s McLaren.
Elsewhere, Sandy Mitchell set GT3’s fastest time not once but four times, while Fox Motorsport’s gamble to start Q1 on wets paid off handsomely for leading Silver-Am duo John Seale and Abbie Eaton who will line up third overall in the revised order – one place ahead of championship leader James Cottingham.
GT3: BEECHDEAN DENIED SATURDAY SWEEP
Track conditions played a starring role in GT3’s first qualifying session, which appeared just about dry enough for slick tyres. At least that was the assessment up and down the pitlane when cars headed out for their first 10-minute run.
It was soon clear, however, that the combination of a greasy track surface and cold temperatures was better suited to wets. Several cars had early excursions, while Kevin Tse and Simon Orange came to blows on the straight heading towards Goddards.
Serenely, through it all, came Seale who – making his first British GT appearance since 2020 – had opted to use wet tyres. And that inspired choice soon saw Fox’s Lamborghini lapping four seconds faster than anyone else.
Several teams followed suit by pitting their drivers late in the session. However, only Howard was able to beat the Huracan.
Behind him came several drivers who would have improved their positions without a late red flag period caused by RACE LAB’s McLaren sliding into Paddock’s 720S, which then hit the pit entry wall hard.
Loggie, in third, finished a second down on Howard but a similar margin clear of Leung, while Cottingham – who was on course for provisional pole before the red flag – slotted into fifth but almost three seconds down on first. Mark Smith was the unfortunate victim of the clash with RACE LAB’s Iain Campbell but did set Q1’s sixth quickest time to beat the likes of Garage 59’s Miguel Ramos and Shaun Balfe (Barwell).
His co-driver, Mitchell, then dominated Q2 after initially – and incorrectly, as it turned out – selecting wets. The Scot then reeled off four consecutive fastest laps but could only move up one place in the combined order. That would ultimately count for little, though, as both Barwell entries and Abba’s Mercedes-AMG faced the same consequences as Beechdean.
On track, at least, the battle for pole boiled down to Gunn, Gounon and Harper. For a while both the Mercedes-AMG and BMW threatened to overturn their deficits but Gunn saved his best ‘til last to eventually take top spot by a comfortable margin.
Harper’s final lap pipped Loggie/Gounon’s combined effort by half-a-tenth, enough to subsequently seal pole, while Eaton’s time also moved her Lamborghini ahead of Cottingham’s co-driver Philip Ellis late in Q2.
Behind, FIA F3 graduate Jonny Edgar enjoyed a promising start to his GT career by helping to qualify Garage 59’s McLaren sixth fastest. It will now start fifth tomorrow and share row three with Enduro’s 720S.
GT4: MILLER AND HOPKINS EDGE OUT DTO
R Racing’s Miller and Hopkins took #DoningtonDecider’s GT4 pole position after overcoming DTO Motorsport’s McLaren, while Optimum’s title-chasing Brown and Clark salvaged third despite enduring a tricky second session.
The mixed conditions that jumbled the GT3 order worked a different way for the GT4 runners, with the track only getting faster with every lap as the sun finally broke through at the start of Q1. That led to a flurry of improved times throughout a first session in which Miller and Rowledge were the standout performers.
Miller was fast from the start and continually improved as the session progressed. Rowledge also moved into contention around the halfway point and then almost grabbed P1 at the end when his final effort fell just 0.003s shy of the Aston Martin’s best.
That set up a breathless second half in which Hopkins and Millar started neck and neck.
Hopkins immediately lit up the timesheets only for Millar to respond in the McLaren as the two cars traded top spot on combined times right until the chequered flag. But it was Hopkins that eventually pulled out an extra two tenths that Rowledge couldn’t find an answer for to finally put the result beyond doubt.
Having missed much of the two practice sessions following a gearbox glitch that necessitated a full change, Optimum’s points-leading McLaren left things excruciatingly late to get itself into contention. Brown was third fastest in Q1, but Clark’s first flying lap was scrubbed for track limits, leaving the car well down the order on combined times until the dying moments when a great late effort elevated the Artura to third overall. It was a moment that could have significant implications for the title fight tomorrow.
Dan Vaughan and Zac Meakin were a fine fourth in Team Parker Racing’s McLaren, while Thomas Holland and Ben Collins – contesting his first British GT qualifying session since 2005 – start fifth in Raceway’s Ginetta.
Academy’s Ford Mustangs were sixth and seventh, with Matt Nicoll-Jones/Will Moore’s version pipping the sister car of Erik Evans/Matt Cowley.
Simpson took the honour of setting fastest time of all, just as he’d done in both practice sessions, to help Toro Verde GT’s Ginetta score Pro-Am pole with Townsend in eighth overall ahead of class rivals Ian Gough and Tom Wrigley (RACE LAB).
British Touring Car Championship ace Tom Ingram also impressed on his British GT debut by banking the second fastest overall qualifying time of all in the second session.
The DoningtonDecider goes green at 13:00 BST today. Watch it live on Sky Sports F1, GT World (YouTube) and SRO Motorsports’ Twitch channel.