Darren Leung and Dan Harper, drivers in the #91 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT3, have been promoted to pole position after an investigation following the GT3 qualifying sessions for the season finale of the 2023 Intelligent Money British GT Championship at Donington Park.
The #97 Beechdean Motorsport Ltd Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3, driven by Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn, took pole position for the final round of the 2023 championship, the Beechdean pairing putting in a combined 3:03.957 but the result was provisional after the stewards announced that they would be reviewing GT3 qualifying as the GT4 sessions ended. It was subsequently decided that as the #97 car had only completed one timed lap in Q1 with the regulations stating that each driver must set two timed laps.
Pole in the GT4 class went to the #23 R Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 driven by Josh Miller and Seb Hopkins with the #36 DTG Motorsport McLaren Artura GT4 piloted by Josh Routledge and Aston Millar second quickest. Completing the top three in class was the #90 Optimum Motorsport McLaren Artura GT4 of Jack Brown and Charles Clark.
The first of the four qualifying sessions got underway on a drying track on the Donington Park GP circuit. Cars were coming in to change to slicks with just seven minutes remaining as John Seale in the #25 Fox Motorsport Lamborghini had an off-track excursion after he had set the best time of the session with a 1:37.850, the decision to stay on wet rubber proving to be the best choice.
Andrew Howards came in and changed back to wet tyres with just four minutes remaining but had to take action to avoid an errant Mercedes-AMG GT3 on his out lap.
As the session drew to a close, John Seale in the #25 Lamborghini remained at the top of the timing screens with James Cottingham in the #4 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 second quickest with a 1:38.844. Howard, back on wet rubber, put in the quickest first sector as the clock ran down and went quickest of the GT3 field with a 1:35.907.
The red flag came out with just ten seconds remaining after a big accident for Mark Smith in the #11 Paddock Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 Evo at the pit lane entry after contact with Iain Campbell in the ##42 RACE LAB McLaren. Smith’s car sustained considerable damage to the front end, making the opportunity for Martin Plowman to get out in the second session look unlikely.
2022 GT3 champion Ian Loggie in the #1 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes was third quickest with a 1:36.970.
There was a delay in getting the second of the GT3 sessions underway as the #11 car was recovered.
Q2 got underway at 1630 with a mix of wet- and slick-shod cars exploring the grip levels on the drying circuit. Sam Neary in the #8 Team Abba Racing Mercedes stuck with wet tyres and was pushing hard on his out lap to put in a ‘banker’ time before making the decision to possibly switch to slicks. The track, however, was drying quickly and Ross Gunn put in a 1:34.281 to put the #97 Beechdean Motorsport Ltd Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 on provisional pole before Jules Gounon put in a 1:31.101 to go to the top of the timing screens in the #1 Mercedes.
Gounon improved to a 1:28.683 but, in the final seconds of the ten-minute session, Ross Gunn put the #97 Beechdean Aston Martin on to provisional pole position with a 1:28,050 to set a combined time of 3:03.957, Dan Harper going quicker with a 1:27.331 to put the #91 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 in second place on the grid. The #1 Mercedes of Gounon and Loggie was third with Abbie Eaton and the #25 Fox Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo she shares with John Seale for Donington fourth quickest with a combined time of 3:05.670.
Qualifying for the GT4 grid got underway almost immediately with the track continuing to dry and all the cars going out on slicks.
Josh Miller in the #23 R Racing Aston Martin put a 1:38.660 to go to the top of the timing screens. Ron Johnson in the #31 MKH Racing Aston Martin had a spin but was able to continue. Miller improved to a 1:37.097 with Josh Rowledge in the #36 DTO Motorsport McLaren Artura GT4 second quickest with a 1:38.075.
As the session entered the final two minutes, Erik Evans in the #61 Academy Motorsport Mustang GT4 set a 1:36.731 before Josh Miller lapped in 1:36.010.
As the chequered flag came out, Miller remained at the top of the timing screens followed by Josh Rowledge in the #36 DTO Motorsport McLaren. Third quickest was Jack Brown in the #90 Optimum Motorsport McLaren Artura GT4.
The final session got underway as the sun was starting to drop lower in the sky as race control declared that the GT3 qualifying session were under investigation. Aston Millar lapped in 1:35.631 to briefly put the #36 McLaren on provisional pole before Seb Hopkins lapped in 1:35.558 to put the #23 Aston Martin back at the top of the timing screens.
As the chequered flag came out for the end of the session#, it was the #23 Aston who re-took the GT4 pole position after Seb Hopkins lapped in 1:35.011 with Josh Millar in second
“You couldn’t really ask for more!” said Seb Hopkins. “I’m delighted for the whole team. Everyone’s done a mega job. We showed some strong pace all weekend long, especially in these tricky conditions so I‘m really happy for everyone and I’m exited to see what we can do tomorrow.”
“The Silver pit stop time definitely makes getting a result more challenging and, of course, on top of that we’ve got a success penalty from Brands. It will make it tough challenging for an outright win but I still think a podium is definitely in reach.”
The lights go out for the final round of the 2023 Intelligent Money British GT Championship, a two-hour contest, at 1.00pm on Sunday October the 22nd.