+ GT3: Cottingham and Adam in prime position for history-making title tilt
+ GT4: Academy edged out by Millar and Rowledge
+ Results: Brands Hatch Qualifying
James Cottingham and Jonny Adam have made the perfect start to their potentially history-making weekend at Brands Hatch by claiming pole position for the penultimate round of this year’s Intelligent Money British GT Championship.
But while 2 Seas’ pole was all but sealed in Q1, GT4’s qualifying session went down to the wire between DTO and Academy whose crews were separated by just 0.009s. Aston Millar and Josh Rowledge ultimately got the better of Will Moore and Matt Nicoll-Jones, while the team’s second Mustang – shared by Erik Evans and Matt Cowley – completed the top-three thanks to the latter’s fastest time of all.
Back at the front, Cottingham and Adam could become the first crew to win British GT3’s title with a round to spare since 2010 tomorrow. But although pole position certainly makes that a possibility, their main championship rivals are also bang in contention. Century’s Darren Leung and Dan Harper share the front row, Shaun Balfe and Sandy Mitchell start third for Barwell, and Ian Loggie is fifth in the second 2 Seas Mercedes-AMG.
Sky Tempesta’s Kevin Tse and Chris Froggatt set GT3’s Silver-Am pace while Michael Johnston and Chris Salkeld sealed GT4 Pro-Am top spot for Century.
Ross Gunn went fastest of all to leave Beechdean AMR fourth overall.
GT3: 2 SEAS STARTS AS IT MEANS TO GO ON
Cottingham topped Q1 at Brands last year and underlined his pace here by also blitzing this afternoon’s opening session. However, the 10 minutes weren’t without incident after a spin on his second flying lap helped others briefly close back in.
The #4 Mercedes-AMG led Leung’s BMW by 0.7s after the first runs before it was pegged back by Tse who briefly had the gap down to less than three tenths. Cottingham regrouped, though, and set three more fastest times – one of which was deleted for a track limits infringement – before the session was over.
Leung looked to have re-taken second before Tse improved again on his last attempt to marginally hold a place on the provisional front row.
But while Adam enjoyed a healthy half-second advantage heading into Q2, the rest of the top six places appeared wide open after Tse, Leung, Balfe, Optimum’s Mark Radcliffe, Andrew Howard and Loggie finished 0.5 seconds apart.
Sky Tempesta’s Silver-Am status meant they were likely to lose ground, and so it proved. But sixth place overall still represented an excellent effort for Tse and Froggatt who could be crowned class champions tomorrow.
Instead, it was the British factory drivers who came to the fore with Harper trimming 2 Seas’ pole advantage to 0.375s and Mitchell going faster still en route to Barwell’s Lamborghini taking third overall.
Gunn lapped even quicker though; his 1m23.126s helped Beechdean’s Aston Martin make it as many different manufacturers inside the final top four at Loggie and Jules Gounon’s expense.
Track limits put paid to Raffaele Marciello’s best time but RAM’s Mercedes-AMG still starts seventh tomorrow after it edged out Optimum’s McLaren. Behind, a five-place grid penalty will drop Paddock’s 720S from ninth to 14th, elevating Barwell’s second Lamborghini and Greystone GT’s Mercedes-AMG.
GT4: DTO EDGES ACADEMY IN THRILLER
DTO Motorsport secured its second pole position of the season after Millar and Rowledge just managed to sneak ahead of Academy’s Moore and Nicoll-Jones in a superbly tight contest.
0.009s separated the two cars on combined times, with Rowledge finally getting the job done on his final flying lap. The battle soon boiled down to a straight fight between the DTO McLaren and Academy Mustang after Millar and Moore had been the class of the field during Q1.
Thomas Holland’s Raceway Ginetta and Jack Brown’s title chasing Optimum McLaren both took turns at the top early on before Millar sledgehammered everybody with a fine effort that moved DTO half-a-second clear.
That sparked a rush to close the gap, and it was Moore who got closest by managing to halve the deficit heading into Q2.
The Mustang then struck first in the second session when Nicoll-Jones turned the tables on DTO by immediately reversing the deficit and establishing a 0.3s advantage. Rowledge didn’t appear to have an answer, and as the minutes ticked by it looked like Academy would start from pole.
The 17-year-old had saved his best for last, though, and just managed to nip ahead thanks to one final effort.
Cowley went fastest of all during the second session to elevate Academy’s other Mustang to third after co-driver Erik Evans tied Q1’s fourth fastest time with Brown. He and co-driver Charles Clark had to settle for fourth overall but still start well clear of their title rivals on a weekend when Optimum’s championship-leading crew can seal the GT4 drivers’ crown.
R Racing’s Aston, which set Q1’s third fastest time in Seb Hopkins’ hands, starts fifth despite Josh Miller somehow avoiding what on any other day would have been a big accident at the fast Westfield bend. Quite how the Vantage didn’t hit the wall only Miller knows!
Darren Burke and Harry George were sixth in Enduro’s Mercedes-AMG, while Chris Salkeld and Michael Johnston took Pro-Am pole in seventh. Currently sitting second in the overall GT4 points, Century’s crew have their work cut out to remain in title contention thanks to the maximum 20-second Pitstop Compensation Time incurred for winning at Portimão.
Round 8 of 2023’s Intelligent Money British GT Championship is live on Sky Sports F1 as well as the GT World YouTube and SRO Twitch channels tomorrow. The two-hour race goes green at 13:30 BST.