Optimum’s Wilkinson/Ellis and Century’s Mathiassen/Kimber slip and slide to Spa poles
Optimum Motorsport’s Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis claimed their first British GT pole position together during a largely wet GT3 qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps this afternoon, while Jacob Mathiassen and Mark Kimber took top spot in GT4 aboard Century Motorsport’s BMW following an inspired decision to switch to slicks.
Behind, Michael Igoe and Dennis Lind maintained their impressive run of form by bagging another front row start for WPI Motorsport after the latter set GT3’s fastest individual time. That proved just enough to overhaul Ryan Ratcliffe and Glynn Geddie, whose Team Parker Racing Bentley starts third.
GT4’s later slot produced two thrilling 10-minute sessions that saw times tumble as the track dried. TF Sport’s Patrick Kibble and Josh Price ultimately joined Century’s BMW on the front row after pipping championship leaders Scott Maxwell and Seb Priaulx (Multimatic Motorsports) to second.
GT3: WILKINSON AND ELLIS TAME CLASSIC SPA CONDITIONS
A torrential downpour 30 minutes before qualifying ensured both GT3 sessions were held in fully wet conditions. And the Silver/Silver crews duly took advantage by snaring first and third in British GT’s predominantly Pro/Am senior class.
Ollie Wilkinson and Ryan Ratcliffe thus went toe-to-toe initially in the worst of the day’s conditions after Team ABBA’s Richard Neary set the early pace. The Optimum Aston lead comfortably as the drivers began their final flying laps but was pushed down to second when Ratcliffe crossed the line. Wilkinson wasn’t finished, though, and improved again to send his co-driver, Bradley Ellis, into the second session with a 0.4s headstart.
JRM’s Rick Parfitt Jnr also posted his best time on the final lap to end Q1 as the fastest Am driver, albeit 2.6s shy of Ellis, while Ian Loggie (RAM Racing), Dominic Paul (Century Motorsport) and Neary completed the initial top-six.
The Pros would therefore face an uphill struggle to bridge Optimum’s early lead. And Ellis ensured they didn’t stand a chance by comfortably maintaining the gap back to his pursuers.
Few would have picked WPI Motorsport to start alongside Wilkinson/Ellis after Michael Igoe ended the first session in 11th. But Dennis Lind had other ideas, and when the Dane lapped 0.3s faster than anyone else, the team’s Lamborghini suddenly found itself on the front row. Indeed, he and Nicki Thiim – who’d earlier topped both dry practice sessions – were the only drivers to dip below 2m40s.
That relegated Team Parker’s Ratcliffe and Glynn Geddie to a second row also featuring RAM Racing’s Callum Macleod and Loggie. Phil Keen’s early flyer suggested Barwell’s Lamborghini might have finished higher than fifth in the combined times, while Adam Christodoulou maintained Team ABBA’s sixth place.
Their positions all came at the expense of JRM, whose Bentley slipped to eighth, one place behind championship contenders Sam De Haan and Jonny Cocker. The best of Century’s BMWs – shared by Ben Green and Paul – qualified ninth.
After two positive practice sessions, neither TF Sport Aston Martin had the collective pace to challenge for pole, despite another fast time from Thiim. Graham Davidson and Jonny Adam, who must also serve a 20s Pitstop Success Penalty for winning at Donington, have work to do from 10th, while team-mates Mark Farmer and Thiim start 12th.
GT4: MATHIASSEN’S SLICK DECISION PAYS OFF
The battle for GT4 pole was essentially over at half-time thanks to Jacob Mathiassen whose decision to try slick tyres on a wet but drying track paid spectacular dividends.
The Dane’s insistence on foregoing the accepted wet weather Pirelli tyres used by every other GT4 crew initially looked risky. Indeed, his exploratory lap gave no hint of what was to come.
Instead, all eyes were on James Dorlin, Alex Toth-Jones and Scott Maxwell who all took turns to top the times. Increasingly quicker laps ensured a grandstand finish, but no-one was prepared for Mathiassen to cross the line 3.3s faster than his wet-shod rivals.
His Century co-driver Mark Kimber completed the formalities during the second session while, behind, the order continued to evolve as the track dried further.
TF Sport’s Patrick Kibble and Josh Price combined to put TF Sport’s #95 Aston Martin second overall after collectively qualifying two seconds behind Century’s BMW, while Multimatic’s Seb Priaulx came within a tenth of ousting the Vantage. He and co-driver Maxwell must overcome an extra 20s in the pits tomorrow if they’re to consolidate their championship lead.
Josh Smith completed the good work of his Tolman co-driver James Dorlin by setting the session’s third fastest time en route to a net fourth ahead of Martin Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher whose place on row three was built around the Am’s sensational third place in Q1.
TF Sport’s second Aston Martin shared by Ash Hand and Tom Canning starts alongside Beechdean AMR’s Vantage, while Tolman’s other McLaren – which features championship contenders Jordan Collard and Lewis Proctor – plus Fox Motorsport’s Mark Murfitt and Mike Broadhurst completed the top-eight.
Elsewhere, Callum Pointon and Dean Macdonald have work to do from 11th if they’re to maintain the pressure on title rivals Priaulx/Maxwell. At least Macdonald setting the second session’s fastest lap suggests HHC Motorsport’s 570S has the dry pace to make progress tomorrow.
Watch Sunday’s two-hour race live across British GT’s website and social media platforms plus SRO’s GT World Youtube channel in the company of Andy Jaye, Andy McEwan and Joe Osborne from 12:30 CEST (BST +1). Pre-race build-up begins at 12:10.