+ Result: Free Practice 1, Brands Hatch
Beechdean AMR’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3 set the pace during opening free practice at Brands Hatch, as Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn combined to put the car out front, while Carl Cavers and Lewis Plato emerged out front of a super-tight GT4 scrap.
After seven long weeks away, the British GT field resumed action at Brands Hatch, and with weather perhaps more suited to southern Portugal as the grid headed out for the first hour-long session around the Kent venue's Grand Prix Circuit.
Howard wasted little time in putting the Aston top during the early laps, before he was usurped by first Sam Neary’s Abba Mercedes-AMG and then the returning Greystone GT-run AMG of Callum Macleod and Mike Price.
But once the session had suitably warmed up, and the GP loop rubbered in, Jules Gounon hopped aboard the #1 2 Seas Motorsport AMG and pumped in a time that would keep his rivals on their toes before handing across to Ian Loggie.
With the #1 AMG sitting half-a-second clear, it sparked a flurry of efforts to unseat it from the top of the times. Will Tregurtha was first to improve in the Barwell Lamborghini, trimming Gounon’s lead to 0.4s, and then Jonny Adam took a further tenth off in the sister 2 Seas car. Rob Bell then joined the party in Optimum's McLaren, trading second place with Adam.
Gounon was finally deposed when Gunn got back aboard the Aston and finally edged past by 0.2s inside the closing minutes. Sandy Mitchell could have joined him, but had what would have been his fastest effort baulked by traffic in the final sector.
That left Gunn on top, with Gounon second and Mitchell/Shaun Balfe third. Cottingham and Adam were fourth, with Bell and Mark Radcliffe fifth for Optimum. Tregurtha and Mark Sansom rounded out the top six ahead of Price/Macleod and Paddock Motorsport’s McLaren shared by Mark Smith and Martin Plowman.
Just 0.149s covered the top three in GT4, with three different brands occupying the top spots. Lewis Plato’s early benchmark aboard the Pro-Am Century Motorsport BMW M4 proved unbeatable, as he just pipped Josh Rowledge in the DTO Motorsport McLaren Artura.
Will Moore and Matt Nicoll-Jones were third in Academy’s lead Ford Mustang, just 0.149s down, with the team’s second car crewed by Erik Evans and Matt Cowley taking fourth in what was a strong session for the Mustangs.
Seb Hopkins and Josh Miller were fifth in the R Racing Aston Martin, while Zak Meakin and Dan Vaughan continued their resurgence aboard the Team Parker Racing/Elite Motorsport McLaren Artura to complete the top six. The session only featured a single stoppage, caused when a brief red flag was needed to clear the #7 Paddock McLaren Artura GT4 from the gravel at Hawthorn after a spin.
Second free practice gets underway at 12:35.