Ross Gunn has claimed the temporary title of fastest factory driver in British GT after topping FP1 by 0.074 seconds. The Aston Martin factory pro struck near the halfway point of the hour-long session to displace Mercedes-AMG driver Raffaele Marciello’s best time in the GT3 Pro-Am class.
In GT4 the honours went to Charles Clarke in the Optimum Motorsport McLaren Artura GT4 who fought a little harder for the top spot. The tail end of the session saw a bit of a scrap between Clark, who shares with Jack Brown in the #90 car and the DTO Motorsport run #36 McLaren Artura of Aston Millar and Josh Rowledge.
Marciello and Rowledge Head Early Running
The early running in FP1 was led by the Mercedes-AMG factory pro driver Raffaele Marciello. The Swiss driver sharing with John Ferguson in the RAM Racing run Mercedes headed the top class by 0.056 seconds at the 15-minute mark. Behind was the #72 with Sandy Mitchell at the wheel for Barwell Motorsport.
Alex West was shown as third place, the highest placed Am in the session at the quarter mark.
Behind the Garage 59 McLaren of West was the #4 Mercedes-AMG or Jonny Adam, the best of the 2 Seas Motorsport entries. Mark Sansom had the second Barwell Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVOII in fifth overall ahead of the defending champion Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Jules Gounon. Gounon shares with Ian Loggie.
In GT4 the top spot was safely in the hands of Josh Rowledge in the DTO Motorsport run McLaren Artura GT4. By safely, we mean by a margin of 0.001 seconds, the smallest margin the timing system can measure.
The car denied by the black and white machine was Charles Clark’s Optimum Motorsport run #90 Artura which in his turn held a 0.112 margin over the Harry George-driven Enduro Motorsport McLaren.
Freddie Tomlinson for Raceway Motorsport was the first non-McLaren in GT4. His #56 Ginetta G56 GT4 held off Lewis Plato’s BMW M4 GT4 from Century Motorsport. Daniel Vaughan came next, sixth in the GT4 class ahead of the twin McLarens of Wrigley and Rawlings for RACE LAB and Paddock respectively.
Pace Slowed At 30 Minutes
By the halfway point in the session, teams were switching over to the Am drivers to continue the testing programme. In GT3 the session was still headed by Marciello’s car, by now with John Ferguson at the wheel and Shaun Balfe behind for Barwell.
Early in the second fifteen minutes, Euan Hankey put the RACE LAB McLaren 720S GT3 EVO he shares with Lucky Khera into third place, which is where it sat until a scorching lap from Ross Gunn after the halfway point. Mark Radcliffe held fifth for the #27 McLaren while Ross Gunn was in sixth until his flyer.
Alex West was the big loser of the second fifteen minutes, dropping from third to seventh between updates ahead of Jonny Adam, who in fairness dropped equally.
In GT4 there was a turnabout at the top with Charles Clark topping the times at the halfway mark. He held a 0.138-second advantage over the DTO machine of Aston Millar with Darren Burke in third in the Enduro car. As with the 15-minute update, the top three were all McLaren Artruras.
Elsewhere in GT4, only the driver names had changed. The same cars were in the same places all down to 9th place, where Seb Hopkins had inserted the R Racing Aston Martin.
Run to the End. Gunn Goes Bang Early
Ross Gunn was the only driver to improve his lot significantly between the 30-minute and 45-minute marks. Five minutes into the quarter he shot to the top with a 1:24.118 to better Raffaele’s best by 0.074 seconds and claim the top spot.
Otherwise, it was business as usual with primarily Am drivers completing their preparations for the endurance race tomorrow. Even in GT4 there was little real action, just careful work to set each car up best for the long slog in the Sunday sunshine.
Tales were starting to appear of troubles though. The #86 Toro Verde GT Ginetta of James Townsend for example, had completed only 4 laps in the session. They were the lowest lappers but weren’t alone. The #55 Raceway Ginetta G56 was also down on the lap count and in the pits with just 9 tours to its name.
Ten laps had passed under the Team Parker Racing Porsche Cayman’s wheels while Michael Johnston had completed only 14 in the #14 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4.
And Not with a Bang, But A Whimper
The end of the session seemed a bit of an anti-climax after factory pros opened the account early on. Interest came early in the final 15 minutes as the team manager for the #62 Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang GT4 of Will Moore and Matt Nicoll-Jones was called to the race director.
However nothing came of it in the way of a penalty so despite seeing the team manager arrive, we don’t know what was discussed.
A late race flyer from Euan Hankey returned the #13 machine to third, behind Gunn and Marciello but aside from the duel in GT4 between the two Arturas and Gunn’s leap to the top, it was the only notable change really in the 30 minutes of the session.
The good news in GT4 was the return of the #86 to the track. James Townsend managed a single tour of the circuit before the flag came out, bringing the cars tally to 5 in the hour. Alas the timing screen doesn’t tell us how fast the lap was, reporting a last lap time of 52:09.750.