Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam secured overall pole position for TF Sport and Aston Martin at Rockingham earlier today ahead of tomorrow’s second British GT round of the season. But with the crew having to serve the maximum 20-second pit-stop penalty during tomorrow’s two-hour race as ‘reward’ for winning at Brands Hatch, the GT3 result remains wide open.
Having topped FP2 the TF Sport duo were always likely to feature in the fight for GT3 pole. That they did owed much to Johnston who paced the first 10-minute Am session by 0.140s from Alasdair McCaig’s Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren, which had kept its powder dry during the day’s earlier practice sessions.
With Liam Griffin’s Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini a further half second back in third, the fight for pole boiled down to a straight fight between Adam and Rob Bell, who was fresh from winning last weekend’s Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup round at Monza.
Rockingham’s particularly abrasive track surface ensured each driver’s first flying lap would likely be their fastest, and so it proved. Adam initially went quickest of all to extend TF Sport’s advantage but was subsequently pegged back by Bell, who - despite being one of only two drivers to dip below the 1m16s barrier - ultimately fell 0.038s short in the combined classification.
Andrew Howard had set the fifth fastest Am time but starts tomorrow’s race third courtesy of Beechdean AMR co-driver Ross Gunn. He lapped just two tenths shy of the ultimate pace set by Barwell Motorsport’s Phil Keen, whose 1m15.871s effort was 2.5s quicker than the last time British GT qualified on Rockingham’s International Super Sportscar Circuit in 2011.
The Lamborghini Huracan GT3 he shares with Jon Minshaw starts fifth, one place behind Barwell team-mates Griffin and Adam Carroll, and just ahead of Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne’s AmDTuning.com BMW Z4 GT3 in sixth.
Will Moore ended the Am session fourth aboard his Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS before he and co-driver Ryan Ratcliffe slipped to seventh in the final classification. Ian Stinton and Mike Simpson were next up in the first of the Tolman Motorsport Ginettas, while Phil Dryburgh and Ross Wylie were ninth ahead of Team Abba with Rollcentre Racing’s Richard Neary and Martin Short.
Two cars looking to make ground tomorrow will be the second TF Sport Aston Martin of Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes, which suffered an engine failure without completing a lap of free practice, and the Team Parker Racing Bentley that finished second at Brands Hatch but sustained heavy damage when Rick Parfitt Jnr spun on oil and hit the barriers during FP1.
Derek Johnston, TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “It’s just brilliant. We worked on it all day and I put my complete faith in the car and tyres. I can’t remember the lap, to be honest; I was totally in the zone. But then when I came across the line I forgot it was faster than the time I’d set this morning! It wasn’t until halfway around that I realised a 1m17.4s was six tenths quicker! Box the car, job done. Obviously tomorrow, with the success penalty, we’ll struggle to replicate our Brands win, but a top-five would feel like a victory. We’ll need a lot of luck to get on the podium.”
Alasdair McCaig, Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 650S GT3: “Brands was a messy one for us but here everything ran smoothly and the car felt good. It was very close between Derek and I so we’re in a good position for tomorrow, even if it’s a very long race. On used tyres the general pace was good this morning, but we’ll need to look after them tomorrow because Rockingham’s track surface is very abrasive.”
Ross Gunn, Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “It’s not really a front-engine circuit but there was still a bit more time in the final sector that I couldn’t quite find. Other than that the lap was good, especially as we went from only running used tyres in practice straight to a new set in qualifying. Our long run pace looks good but the abrasive surface is a bit of an unknown in terms of who it will suit best. Another consistent top-five finish would be ideal. Andrew’s won here before and I did the same last year so we know what’s required, although I still have plenty to learn about the car in race trim.”
Tomorrow’s 10-minute warm-up gets underway at 09.25 before the two-hour race starts at 13.00.
Click here for combined qualifying results.