James Cottingham and Lewis Williamson gave their Intelligent Money British GT Championship title aspirations a boost by clinching pole position for the penultimate round at Brands Hatch earlier today.
Meanwhile, Steller Motorsport’s Audi shared by Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding took top spot in class thanks to the latter’s late flying lap in the second GT4 session.
However, it’s 2 Seas Motorsport’s Mercedes-AMG that will lead the field away on Sunday after Cottingham and Williamson set the first and second fastest times in their respective qualifying sessions – enough to finish a combined 0.396s clear of Enduro’s McLaren shared by Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton. Redline’s Lamborghini completed the top three and sealed Silver-Am pole thanks to Alex Malykhin and James Dorlin who set the fastest GT3 time of all.
Further back, Steller are joined on the GT4 front row by fellow title contenders Jamie Day and Josh Miller (R Racing), while Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s Tom Edgar and Jordan Collard start third. Championship leaders Matt Topham and Darren Turner (Newbridge Motorsport) took the Pro-Am spoils in seventh overall.
GT3: 2 SEAS 2 GOOD
With Spa’s race result confirmed at lunchtime, 2 Seas’ Cottingham and Williamson headed into qualifying fully aware of the title situation and, more specifically, their 39-point deficit to Ian Loggie who could wrap up the crown tomorrow.
The #4 Mercedes-AMG must beat RAM’s machine to have any hope of prolonging the championship battle. And its pairing gave themselves the best chance possible by producing an exemplary qualifying performance.
Cottingham set the tone by recording Q1’s first representative time, which remained unbeaten during the first and second round of fast laps. A 0.4s improvement on his third effort initially opened a sizeable advantage until Tillbrook lowered his deficit to 0.091s.
Adam Balon and Loggie had swapped positions over the first eight minutes but were locked into provisional third and fourth places when debutant Andrey Borodin brought the session to an early end by crashing Greystone GT’s McLaren on Cooper Straight.
Williamson therefore headed into Q2 with a narrow advantage over Clutton and a more comfortable 0.3s head start against Sandy Mitchell and Callum Macleod. Redline’s Lamborghini was also within half-a-second thanks to Malykhin while Abba’s Mercedes-AMG led the next batch of tightly bunched cars that included the likes of Century’s BMW driven by debutant Henry Dawes who set Q1’s seventh quickest time.
2 Seas also spent the second 10 minutes towards the sharp end but it was Dorlin who ultimately set the quickest time and came within a tenth of lowering the existing lap record. His 1m22.969s was just 0.013s faster than Williamson, which moved Redline’s Lamborghini ahead of both Barwell and RAM in the combined classification.
Clutton – who might have gone quicker without his final lap being compromised – finished fourth in the session behind Mitchell but maintained Enduro’s place on the front row. And that could be crucial given that the McLaren – unlike the Mercedes-AMG starting alongside – doesn’t have a Success Penalty to serve tomorrow.
Barwell share row two with Redline while it’s an all Mercedes-AMG affair directly behind thanks to RAM and Abba whose father/son duo both finished sixth in their sessions.
Century remained seventh, while 7TSIX, Paddock and Fox – whose victory at Spa was confirmed earlier today – completed the overall top-10.
GT4: FIELDING STEALS THE SHOW
Williams and Fielding scored their fourth GT4 pole position of the season during qualifying at Brands Hatch, but they were made to work right until the final moments before securing top spot.
Williams finished the first half of qualifying in fourth, which left Fielding with a 0.4s deficit to make up. But he delivered in spades by setting the fastest time of a disrupted second session to snatch top spot by just over a tenth.
GT4 was also incredibly competitive across the field, a point underlined by as many different manufacturers filling the top six grid slots.
When the opening qualifying segment went green, a host of drivers rotated the lead time with first Jamie Orton going fastest in Team Parker Racing’s Porsche before his time was bettered by Moh Ritson’s Paddock Motorsport McLaren, Edgar’s Toyota Racing UK GR Supra and then Day’s R Racing Aston Martin.
As the times tumbled, Day went faster still to make provisional pole his own before Freddie Tomlinson produced a superb late effort to move the Assetto Motorsport Ginetta into second and just 0.109s shy of the Aston. Edgar held on to third in the Toyota, with Williams snatching fourth on his final flying lap in the Audi. Orton was fifth, ahead of Marco Signoretti in the Academy Ford Mustang.
With just over a tenth of a second in it the second half was always going to be tight, but things were made even more unpredictable when a red flag stoppage reduced the fight for pole to a two-lap sprint.
Fielding took over the Audi from Williams and immediately set about closing the four-tenth gap to top spot, with his first flying lap briefly putting him out front before Collard built on Edgar’s strong start to go fastest on combined times in the Toyota. Miller then beat the lot of them, reclaiming provisional pole for R Racing right before running was interrupted when Chris Salkeld suffered an off out of Stirling’s that left Century’s #9 BMW stranded across the track.
When the clean-up was complete and the session resumed, there were barely five minutes left to run once the frontrunners got up to speed, and Fielding pushed like mad to try and find the few fractions of a second that would make the difference. With a clear track ahead he managed to extend his advantage over Day to just over half-a-second, which decisively put the Audi on top overall.
Collard/Edgar’s Toyota will start tomorrow’s race third, ahead of Seb Hopkins/Orton’s Porsche 718 Cayman. Matt Cowley improved the Mustang he shares with Signoretti to fifth, just ahead of Tomlinson/Joe Wheeler’s Ginetta.
It was so nearly seven different marques in a row, but Topham and Turner’s Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin ended the streak by improving to seventh – and Pro-Am pole – late on at the expense of Century’s other BMW shared by Jack Brown and Will Burns.
This year’s penultimate Intelligent Money British GT Championship race goes green at 13:30 BST tomorrow. Watch it live on GT World’s YouTube channel.