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Simonsen tops opening British GT practice at Brands Hatch

Saturday, August 30 2014

The Simonsen name returned to the top of the leaderboard in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Brands Hatch today (Saturday), when Benny Simonsen lapped the Rosso Verde Ferrari 458 fastest of all in opening practice.

The local Motorbase Aston Martins held first and third places on the leaderboard during the early stages of practice, sandwiching the Triple 8 BMW of Joe Osbourne. Rory Butcher held Motorbase honours over Michael Caine, until Jonny Adam took over half a second from him in the Beechdean Aston Martin.

Matt Bell brought the United Autosports Audi into contention with second place before there was a rush to the pitlane and the chance for the gentlemen drivers to take their turn in the cars. Butcher stayed in his car, however, and closed the gap to Adam by just six thousandths of a second.

Adam pressed on and gained a further tenth as series returnee Nick Tandy began to impress in the Trackspeed Porsche that he's sharing with David Ashburn this weekend. At the halfway stage he was second quickest, with the other Trackspeed car of Phil Keen fourth.

Not long after Tandy had posted his best time, trouble for the United Autosports Audi at Graham Hill and subsequent tyre wall damage gave cause for a red flag, which halted proceedings for 15 minutes.

The first improvement when hostilities resumed came from Alexander Sims in the championship-leading Ecurie Ecossse BMW, up to fourth place. Soon afterwards, an inspired Simonsen lapped the Rosso Verde Ferrari fastest of all by a quarter of a second, although Sims halved the gap next time around. With Adam on the pitwall and five minutes remaining, the Beechdean team would not be responding.

A stealthy lap from Sims closed the gap to Simonsen still further as the session drew to a conclusion, but with Barrie Baxter's GT4 Porsche in the gravel at Paddock Hill and subsequent yellow flags, there was to be no change to the top of the order as the chequered flag came out. Just one second covered the top ten runners in the session.

Gavan Kershaw dominated the GT4 category early on, with Devon Modell, Jamie Stanley and Dan Cammish all more than a second behind the Lotus Evora. With almost half of the session completed, Stanley lapped his Ginetta within a second of Kershaw's time. The positions remaining unchanged until the session was nearly over and Bradley Ellis' Ginetta took the class lead by barely one hundredth of a second, then extended it by a quarter of a second soon afterwards.

The second practice session will take place at 12:20 today.

Avon Tyres British GT Championship Practice one
1, Hector Lester/Benny Simonsen, Rosso Verde/Hector Lester, Ferrari 458 Italia, GT3, 1:26.495s
2, Marco Attard/Alexander Sims (+10), Ecurie Ecosse, BMW Z4, GT3, +0.035s
3, Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam, Beechdean AMR, Aston Martin Vantage, GT3, +0.226s
4, David Ashburn/Nick Tandy (+10), Trackspeed, Porsche 997, GT3, +0.361s
5, Jeff Smith/Rory Butcher, Oman Racing Team, Aston Martin Vantage, GT3, +0.384s
6, Jon Minshaw/Phil Keen, Trackspeed, Porsche 997, GT3, +0.813s
7, John McCullagh/Matt Bell, United Autosports, Audi R8 LMS Ultra, GT3, +0.847s
8, Paul Bailey/Andy Schulz, HorsePower Racing, Aston Martin Vantage, GT3, +0.889s
9, Humaid Al Masaoud/Steven Kane, M-Sport, Bentley Continental, GT3, +0.944s
10, Gary Eastwood/Adam Carroll (+10), FF Corse, Ferrari 458 Italia, GT3, +1.026s

Click here to view the full result.

Tickets for the British GT and F3 Championships at Brands Hatch on 30/31 August are available on the gate for £14 on Saturday and £22 on Sunday, with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.