Downing dominates damp Silverstone qualifying

Downing dominates damp Silverstone qualifying

Gareth Downing battled tricky conditions at Silverstone to grab pole position for the first GT Cup sprint race of the season finale. The National Motorsport Academy Mosler MT900 was just over four seconds quicker than the Gibson Motorsport McLaren 650S GT3, the pair trading times earlier in the 20-minute qualifying session.

“Obviously the gap flatters us as Paul Gibson is in the McLaren – Dan would be fighting for the same time – while we’re out on our own," said Downing. "It shows what a good job we’ve done and a testament to what we’re trying to achieve with this car and progress it to make it faster. We’re fighting to see just how fast it can go and it will be the best it’s been all weekend. Throughout the year it’s progressed and this weekend we’re tinkering with the front end to battle the modern machinery.”

John Seale had topped the times himself at one stage in the JMH Automotive Ferrari 488 Challenge he shares with Abbie Eaton, falling to fourth overall but still fastest in Group GTC ahead of the similar car of Paul Bailey.

“The car felt fantastic which gave me the confidence to push in the final stages, and that is a testament to all the hard work that Jason and the team at JMH have done,” said Seale. “Abbie [Eaton] has been a great help in working with me to find more time so I am really happy to be the quickest of the Ferraris. The races this afternoon will be enjoyable.”

In a tight battle for the overall championship title, the early advantage went to Adam Hatfield. The Whitebridge Motorsport driver is already champion in Group GTH, which he topped in qualifying ahead of Century Motorsport’s Ginetta G55.

“I think we’ve certainly started off on the right foot,” said Hatfield. “The car has been great all season, but here it was all about timing. We learned a lot about the car from testing and then also from working with Ross Gunn, so we’re trying to put it all into perspective and hopefully it all works out. The conditions are manageable – it’s about bringing the tyres in and building on it. We’re in the best place possible so the others now have it all to do.”

Topcats Racing remain Hatfield’s biggest rivals, and James Reveler ensured one of their cars would start on pole as his Ginetta G55 lead the way in Group GTA. The team’s Marcos Mantis would be denied pole position in Group GTB by the BMW of James Webb, which pipped Warren Gilbert to the top spot by a mere 0.096s.

“It was a difficult qualifying going from very wet this morning, in which I actually felt quite comfortable,” said Webb. “I was setting some good times in practice, but then we go into a drying track with very little dry running, so it took me a while and there was certainly more time in the car. Theoretically, the wind will have an effect, but I can’t say that I’ve noticed it around the corners. I’m confident – there’s lots of straights for the Marcos to cause problems, so we’ll see where we are after the first few corners.”

Qualifying results:

Group GTO
1 – Gareth Downing – National Motorsport Academy (Mosler MT900)
2 – Paul Gibson – Gibson Motorsport (McLaren 650S GT3)
3 – Tim Richards – MTECH (Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo)

Group GTC
1 – John Seale – JMH Automotive (Ferrari 488 Challenge)
2 – Paul Bailey – SB Race Engineering (Ferrari 488 Challenge)
3 – Christoforou Pantelis – FF Corse (Ferrari 488 Challenge)

Group GTB
1 – James Webb – Team Webb (BMW M3 GTR)
2 – Warren Gilbert / Jon Harrison – Topcats Racing (Marcos Mantis)
3 – Mark Cowne/Gary Marsh – In2Racing (Porsche 991 GT3)

Group GTA
1 – James Reveler – Topcats Racing (Ginetta G55)
2 – Lee Frost – Butler Motorsport (Ginetta G55)
3 – Lucky Khera – Butler Motorsport (Ginetta G55)

Group GTH
1 – Adam Hatfield – Whitebridge Motorsport (Aston Martin GT4)
2 – David Holloway – Century Motorsport (Ginetta G55 GT4)
3 – Barry McMahon – Whitebridge Motorsport (Aston Martin GT4)