Rockingham GT4 Qualifying: Dominant Johnson/Robinson secure first British GT4 pole

Rockingham GT4 Qualifying: Dominant Johnson/Robinson secure first British GT4 pole

A perfect performance helped PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport's Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson dominate GT4 qualifying at Rockingham earlier today where both drivers topped their respective Am and Pro sessions. However, it might have been very different had a fuel issue not sidelined the practice pace-setting Century Motorsport Ginetta of Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke.

Johnson set the ball rolling by lapping 0.4s quicker than the next best in class, Sean Byrne’s second Century Motorsport G55 GT4, before Robinson finished the job by recording what would end up as the class benchmark: 1m22.878s. Nevertheless, they will do well to convert that into a second successive race victory tomorrow thanks to their 20-second pit-stop success penalty.

Byrne’s co-driver Aleksander Schjerpen was half a second further back in the Pro session but still quick enough to secure second in the combined times. It provided at least some consolation for the team whose #73 entry had looked like a strong contender for pole.

Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell continued to show strong pace aboard the all-new Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S GT4 to end up third in class, while Matthew George and 2015 Rockingham GT4 race winner Jamie Chadwick line up fourth for Generation AMR SuperRacing.

The 2015 class-winning Beechdean AMR Vantage is next up in the hands of Jordan Albert and Jack Bartholomew, ahead of RCIB Insurance Racing’s Jordan Stilp and William Phillips. Matty Graham and Jack Mitchell’s Generation AMR Vantage, rebuilt after its Brands Hatch shunt, starts seventh.

Scott Malvern set the second fastest time in the session - two tenths shy of Robinson’s - but starts eighth aboard the Simpson Motorsport Ginetta he shares with Nick Jones, while the JWBird Motorsport Aston of Kieran Griffin and Jake Giddings and Ebor GT Maserati driven by Abbie Eaton and Marcus Hoggarth complete the top-10.

Graham Johnson, PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “I was a bit surprised with the time, actually. We only got one lap out of the tyres and I made sure Mike knew that when we swapped. But on the first lap the car felt mega. It’s nice to have such a big advantage in qualifying but that won’t count for much with our success penalty against such a competitive grid tomorrow. There’s a lot of Silver pairings but hopefully our experience will help. Top-five is realistic.”

Mike Robinson, PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “It’s always nice to go quickest in your session but the fact both Graham and I were able to do that makes it all the sweeter. It was a little bit unexpected, if I’m honest after practice, but the Pirelli tyres were just so good. I tried to do a slower warming up lap but was also conscious of gaining track position and, in the end, just went for it. Thankfully I was able to put in a good, clear lap, although the delta on the dash wasn’t working so I had no idea if I was up or down. I knew I wouldn’t go any quicker after that.”

Sean Byrne, Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “I was a bit off the pace first time out at Brands but the car felt great here and I really enjoyed it. Nathan’s [Freke] as quick as anyone in the Ginetta so it’s great to learn from his data; we’re all in the truck crowding around! For me, in only my second British GT race, I’m aiming to just get around and hand the car over to Aleksander in a good position. We’re not looking at the car ahead having a success penalty.”

Ciaran Haggerty, Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S GT4: “I think that’s the best the car’s felt throughout pre-season testing and at Brands Hatch, so we’re delighted. We’re running a bit heavier than some of the other GT4 cars but the long straights and high speed corners seem to suit the McLaren better. Plus we’re only going to get stronger when further developments become available and we visit faster circuits like Silverstone and Spa. Tomorrow we need to stay out of trouble and see where we end up, but today’s a good start.”

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.