Track action at the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series roared in to life today with three sessions completed under warm and sunny skies on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit. A huge 58 car field of spectacular GT3 supercars glinted in the Northamptonshire sunshine as the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series title battles began once more after a six-week break since the first event at Monza.
Bronze Test Session – Russian revolution
The early morning session saw 39 of the 58 entrants take part in the 60-minute test. Topping the times was the #71 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia driven by Devi Markozov. The Russian driver and team combination completed their programme of just 8 laps, but it was enough for Markovoz to turn in a 2m03.582s lap around the 3.667 mile circuit.
Second fastest in the session was the #35 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN car driven by one of the academies recent recruits, Steve Doherty. The American, gaining confidence by the lap in the Nissan GT-R NISMO, set a best of 2m03.677s and reported encouraging speed and stability through the challenging sweeps of the RJN teams home track.
Rounding out the top three in the Bronze session was another of the four SMP Racing Ferrari Italia 458s. The #70 entry driven by Alexey Basov set a 2m04.026s best just heading off the impressive Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
The only significant incident of the session was a sizeable accident for the #5 Boutsen-Ginion McLaren MP4-12C, driven at the time by Koen Wauters. The Belgian left the circuit at Chapel corner and impacted the barriers, sustaining damage to the car that the Belgian singing star shares with David Dermont and Frederic Vervisch . After a check up at the medical centre, Wauters returned to the paddock but sadly the car is highly unlikely to take part in the rest of the meeting.
Free Practice Session – Aston attack!
This morning’s Free Practice session was sensationally topped by the Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT3, continuing their imperious form at Silverstone in recent weeks. Joe Osborne, re-affirming his growing reputation in GT3 racing set the fastest time of the 90-minute session with a highly creditable 2m02.348s. He shares the car this weekend with Joe Osborne and Mark Poole.
"We were pretty strong during the session and the team did a superb job,” confirmed Osborne. “We had to run new Pirelli tyres because we did not have scrubbed ones because we did not do the Monza race of course. Richard (Abra) went first on the new tyres and did a very good time, and then I went out and managed to be a little bit quicker. This is really my home circuit, I live 20 minutes away, and of course it is Aston Martin’s home track too. It is a bit of a home coming, which is nice so hopefully we can carry the momentum over to tomorrow and get a good result.”
It was a wonderful day for Aston Martin at Silverstone, as the PRO class Vantage GT3 of Darren Turner/Frederic Makowiecki and Stefan Mucke claimed 1st place in the PRO class and 2nd overall. ‘Mako’ scorched to a 2m02.429s lap despite encountering traffic towards the end of his fastest tour.
Third place and continuing some excellent consistency was the #70 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia. Alessandro Pier Guidi, who claimed pole position at Monza in April, set the time of 2m02.918s.
Making it three Aston Martin Vantage GT3s in the top four was the leading Gentlemen Trophy entry of John Gaw and Phil Dryburgh in the PGF-Kinfaun entry. Gaw, Managing Director of Aston Martin Racing was satisfied with the day’s work for the ‘Banbury Boys’ and believes a top result is achievable in Sunday afternoon’s race.
It was a remarkably close session with the top 40 Blancpain Endurance Series cars covered by less than three seconds, boding well for an intense fight throughout the huge field in tomorrow’s three-hour race which begins at 14.50bst.
Pre-Qualifying – Nissan to the fore
The final session of the day proved to be the fastest as the pace went up in intensity, along with the ambient and track temperature at the famous Silverstone circuit. At the chequered flag it was the JRM Nissan on top, with Peter Dumbreck setting the best time in the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 he shares with Steven Kane and Lucas Luhr.
“That was a positive note to end the day on,” said Dumbreck. “Silverstone has historically been a good circuit for Nissan and it’s been that again today, with two Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3s in the top two. We seem to have made the power delivery a lot more effective here. In terms of programme we tried out a set-up in the morning that worked really well and then chipped away at it in the afternoon. It’s difficult to know where we are in relation to the other teams as everyone will have been trying out different fuel loads and tyres, but it’s always good to see your name on the top of the timesheets going into qualifying,” concluded the experienced Scotsman.
Making it a Nissan 1-2 was the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN squad with Alex Buncombe as he registered a best lap of 2m01.825s in the fastest of the PRO-AM class entry. Continuing his excellent form from Monza, Buncombe was just under half a second shy of Dumbreck’s time, ensuring that the Bob Neville led team are in a confident frame of mind for their home race.
Again taking the plaudits in the Gentlemen Trophy category was the PGF-Kinfaun Aston Martin Vantage GT3 with John Gaw and Phil Dryburgh consolidating their promise and pace to end the 75-minute session two-tenths of a second ahead of the SOFREV ASP Ferrari 458 Italia of Jerome Policand/Maurice Ricci and Gabriel Balthazard.
With the large and varied grid combined with a warm and sunny weather forecast, tomorrow’s second round of the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series promises to be another modern classic. Nine famous supercar brands will begin the battle for supremacy at 14.50bst, but only after the crucial qualifying session which takes place from 09.00 to 10.00am tomorrow morning.
Blancpain Endurance Series