The Donington Decider has been set up for an intense race after qualifying took place today. After heavy rain earlier on in the day, the weather cleared in time for the qualifying session. Those teams who had preserved their cars by limiting any wet weather practice were with the advantage. It was TF Sport’s Jonny Adam and Derek Johnston who took pole position in the GT3 class, being fastest in both the Am and Pro sections. Championship Challengers Jack Bartholomew and Ross Gunn took pole position in the GT4 class to put themselves in the best position to retain the GT4 crown for Beechdean.
The GT3 sessions went all TF Sport’s way. With an 11.5 point deficit to the #33 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan this was exactly what the TF Sport team needed to try and bring the Championship back into their hands. It was Johnston who set his time first in the Am class, holding a 0.011 second advantage over the field. After skipping the last round in Snetterton, Andrew Howard was back with the reigning Championship Beechdean Aston Martin. With Gunn now tied up with Bartholomew in GT4, Rory Butcher partnered Howard for the final round of the season. Howard was able to get the #1 Beechdean up to provisional second place, dropping Championship leader Jon Minshaw down to third.
Butcher was unable to compete in the second session of GT3 qualifying as the brakes on the #1 Beechdean failed, leaving the car stranded in the garage. This means that crew will start at the back of the GT3 field and have a lot to fight forward to in the two-hour race. Adam was keen to keep up his teammate’s good work as he pushed for the #17 Aston Martin to take pole position. With consecutive fastest laps, Adam made sure their pole position was unchallenged, holding a 0.414 second lead on their closest rivals. The TF Sport team is in the best position possible as Adam aims to retain his GT3 title tomorrow.
Adam’s fastest lap of a 1:27.602 was a clear two tenths faster than second-fastest Rob Bell in the Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren. Even with this deficit to pole position man, Bell managed to place the 650S McLaren second on tomorrow’s grid after his teammate Alasdair McCaig could only go sixth fastest in the Am session. An early off for the Championship leader Phil Keen saw the Lamborghini’s performance significantly affected. He was visibly disappointed with his efforts, unable to challenge the pace of Championship rival Adam for pole. He converted Minshaw’s third place in class and will chase down their maiden Championship from there. The sister Lamborghini will share the second row with Minshaw and Keen, looking to gain enough points to other throw TF Sport in the Team’s Championship – currently Barwell Motorsport trail by 14.5 points.
Rick Parfitt Jr. and Seb Morris start fifth on the grid, ahead of TF Sport’s second car driven by Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes. The first Ginetta in GT3 lines up seventh on the grid. After Ian Stinton and Mike Simpson had lead both wet free practices in their Tolman Motorsport Ginetta they were hoping that qualifying would hold onto the damp conditions they had seemed to thrive in. Unfortunately for them this was not the case. Phil Dryburgh and Ross Wylie completed the top eight in their Motorbase Performance Aston Martin.
For the GT4 Championship fight, the advantage has gone to Bartholomew and Gunn as they took pole position in class. They have a 2.5 points deficit to the pair of Mike Robinson and Graham Johnson, who dominated the first half of the season, charging off with an impressive Championship lead. But it was not an easy task for the Beechdean GT4 boys to take pole position. After the Am class’ ten-minute session it was Sandy Mitchell who had the advantage, putting the Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse on provisional pole. Mitchell took the fastest lap by 0.018 seconds from Matthew Graham in the Generation AMR Macmillan Racing car. Bartholomew left the #407 in third place for Gunn to gain the time to climb up to first.
Gunn did not disappoint, coming out in the Pro class session and setting a time of 1:36.030. This was not only the fastest GT4 time of the day, but also a clear half-a-second up on their closes challengers in second place. Ciaran Haggerty had no response to keep the McLaren in pole position and starts alongside Gunn in second for tomorrow’s race. But it was a day for the Pro drivers to show their skills. Championship leader Johnson ended the Am session in sixth place, leaving it all for Robinson to do the get the PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport #50 up to a competitive starting position for tomorrow. Alike Gunn, Robinson did not disappoint. Becoming the quickest Ginetta in class, he took a comfortable third position and will start behind their Championship rivals for tomorrow’s race. With only 2.5 points in the title hunt it will be a case of whomever finishes in front will take the crown.
The impressive displays from the top three relegated Graham and Jack Mitchell to a fourth-place start for tomorrow’s race, lining up ahead of Alex Reed and Joey Foster in the Lanan Racing Car. Reed and Foster are looking to retain third-place in the GT4 Championship Standings. The debutant team of Sam Webster and Jamie Stanley start sixth in the Fox Motorsport G55. Stanley managed to gain two positions in the Pro class session, taking their car form eighth to sixth. The GPRM Toyota GT86 made it four different manufactures in the top seven with Stefan Hodgetts and James Fletcher starting beside the Fox Motorsport Ginetta.
RCIB Insurance Racing duo William Phillips and Jordan Stilp had a tough day, slipping from fourth to eighth in the Pro session. They start ahead of Marcus Hoggarth and Abbie Eaton in the Ebor GT Maserati and UlrtaTek Lotus Evora with Tim Eakin and Gavan Kershaw on board. Matthew George took the second fastest time in the Pro qualifying, behind Gunn, but lines up 17th on the grid due to combined qualifying times. Aaron Mason and Rob Barrable start from the very back of the grid as Mason’s accident at the end of the Am session put the RCIB Insurance Racing car out of action for the Pro session.