Jules Gounon lowered his own lap record and Charles Clark set a new GT4 benchmark during a rapid four-part Intelligent Money British GT Championship qualifying session at Oulton Park this afternoon.
James Cottingham starts Monday’s season opener up front in 2 Seas’ other Mercedes-AMG after edging out Sky Tempesta’s Kevin Tse by just 0.03s in Q1 before Gounon saved his best for last to take Race 2 pole by more than two tenths from Dan Harper.
GT4 was more clear cut. Jack Brown began Optimum’s clean sweep by lapping 0.3s faster than debutants DTO and Aston Millar to claim top spot for Race 1. His co-driver Clark then completed the team sweep with a time just over one second quicker than anyone else in Q4.
GT3: 2 SEAS. 2 POLES. 2 GOOD.
James Cottingham starred in the first session by setting three consecutive fastest times to kick start 2 Seas’ perfect afternoon at Oulton.
The Mercedes-AMG he shares with Jonny Adam – who contests his 100th British GT race on Monday morning – looked set to share the front row with its stablemate driven by reigning champion Ian Loggie, who’d slotted in ahead of Richard Neary (Team Abba Racing), Morgan Tillbrook (Enduro Motorsport) and early pace-setter Andrew Howard (Beechdean AMR).
Kevin Tse – a race winner at Oulton two years ago – had other ideas, though. The Macanese lapped just three hundredths shy of Cottingham on his final flyer to vault Sky Tempesta’s McLaren up the order. Second overall was also sufficient to finish first of the Silver-Am entries.
Last year’s Q1 pole winner Shaun Balfe headed up row four in the first of Barwell’s Lamborghinis, while Darren Leung completed the top-eight in Century’s BMW.
The second GT3 session was, arguably, the most stacked in championship history. And, as expected, all eight factory drivers delivered.
Dan Harper is the youngest of the octet and most recent addition to the works ranks. But it was the BMW ace who looked most likely to take pole after the first round of fast times. His Century M4 was quicker again in sector one next time around but ran wide at Hislops and failed to improve thereafter.
Gounon, meanwhile, was just getting started after initially slotting into second ahead of his Mercedes-AMG colleague Raffaele Marciello. His next effort – 1m31.713s – would be the fastest British GT lap ever recorded at Oulton and six tenths under his own existing qualifying lap record.
No-one else looked capable of matching that, and their chances of doing so ended early when Marcus Clutton’s Enduro McLaren suffered an ABS failure approaching Shell. The head-on impact looked nasty but the barriers absorbed all of the impact and, incredibly, Clutton was able to drive the 720S back to the pits.
Gounon’s lap was 0.278s faster than Harper, who beat RAM Racing’s Marciello by a tenth-and-a-half. Marvin Kirchhoefer was next up in Garage 59’s McLaren, while Ross Gunn beat Jonny Adam by less than a tenth to leave Beechdean AMR fifth.
Sandy Mitchell and Rob Bell completed the factory contingent behind, although Silver-Am pole winner Sam Neary (Team Abba Racing) came within three hundredths of beating Optimum’s McLaren.
GT4: AN OPTIMUM PERFORMANCE
Jack Brown and Charles Clark both scored pole positions, as well as class lap records, on a day when Optimum’s new McLaren proved unstoppable.
When the first session went green, RACE LAB’s Ian Gough initially looked like the man to beat. But although he would hang on to Pro-Am top spot, there was nothing neither he or anyone else could do about Brown who produced a stunning lap to go 1.2s faster than the rest at that stage.
Only debutant Aston Millar would get close to matching that time, but his DTO Motorsport McLaren was still 0.3s shy of the runaway Brown when all was said and done.
Zac Meakin netted third in Team Parker Racing’s Porsche 718 Cayman, which just pushed Gough down to fourth. Freddie Tomlinson was fifth fastest in Raceway Motorsport’s Ginetta G56 ahead of R Racing’s Aston Martin driven by Josh Miller.
With Race 1’s grid confirmed, the second set of drivers took over to decide the order for Monday’s second hour-long race. And once again it was Optimum that hit the ground running.
Tom Rawlings led the early times in Paddock Motorsport’s Artura before Clark scorched around in 1m39.7s to not only lower his team-mate’s erstwhile lap record but absolutely obliterate it by 0.9s.
Tom Wrigley was second to secure a Pro-Am double pole for RACE LAB, but even he was a full second adrift. Rawlings was third ahead of Esmee Hawkey, who was fourth fastest on her British GT debut thanks to a late flyer that vaulted Toro Verde’s Ginetta up the order.
2017’s GT4 champion Stuart Middleton grabbed fifth in Raceway’s G56, while Seb Hopkins rounded ou the top-six in R Racing’s Aston Martin.
British GT now takes Easter Sunday off before reconvening at Oulton on bank holiday Monday when Sky Sports F1 and SRO’s GT World YouTube channel will have live coverage of both 60-minute races.