The 20-car grid of the fastest single marque GT racing championship in the UK produced the closest qualifying session in recent history. Just one quarter of a second separated the top eight around Knockhill’s demanding 1.3 miles, and just 0.011 of a second the difference between pole position and second.
Making that difference to start round ten from pole position was Dan Cammish (Redline Racing). Returning to the championship for the first time since taking a spectacular win at Carrera Cup Le Mans, the reigning champion responded to intense pressure to go fastest overall on his 22nd lap.
Chasing hard and just missing out was Charlie Eastwood (Redline Racing). However, in addition to starting round ten from the front row, the Porsche GB 2016 / 2017 Scholar was rewarded for his efforts when his second fastest lap secured him pole position for round eleven with Cammish starting alongside.
Despite heavy rain earlier in the day, the track had dried sufficiently as the 20 competitors headed to the pit lane for every driver to start on slick tyres. Although still damp in places off line, the circuit provided just enough grip for times to edge ahead of the fastest recorded so far this week.
For those that had missed the Tuesday test, such as Tom Wrigley (IN2 Racing) and Tio Ellinas (JTR), the qualifying session was the first time they had taken to a dry Knockhill in a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. As track and tyre temperatures rose, Cammish set the early pace despite having also missed the Tuesday test due to a Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup test at Monza the same day. Tom Oliphant (Redline Racing), Dan McKay (Redline Racing) and Eastwood all took a turn at the top of the time sheets before the customary mid-session tyre change.
Dino Zamparelli (JTR) emerged first to capitalise on a relatively clear lap, but the fastest times came towards the very end of the session. With less than ten minutes left to run, Euan McKay (Redline Racing) improved to third before posting the fastest time overall on his fourteenth lap. Oliphant then Zamparelli followed into second before Eastwood became the first to break under the 50-second mark, all of which demoted Cammish to fifth.
Under pressure with just minutes remaining, Cammish responded to post his two fastest laps in quick succession. Zamparelli finished third and fourth with Oliphant fourth and third, Euan McKay ending up fifth for both races. Brother Dan McKay starts just behind in sixth and seventh places, Lewis Plato (JTR) trading times with him to start seventh and sixth. Still within the same quarter of a second of pole position was Ellinas, eighth for both races.
Pro-Am1 saw a similarly close battle for grid positions, Alex Martin (Team Parker Racing) keeping at the head of the category for two pole positions despite Justin Sherwood (Team Parker Racing) pushing hard to dislodge him. For most of the session, half a second separated Martin from John McCullagh (Redline Racing) in third, the Yorkshireman happy to be so close despite it being only his second weekend since returning to the championship.
Iain Dockerill (Asset Advantage Racing) came out ahead to claim a pair of Pro-Am2 pole positions, his final two laps seeing all his preparations come together for a lap two tenths quicker than Peter Kyle-Henney (IN2 Racing) could manage. In the opening stages, category leader Shamus Jennings (G-Cat Racing) held the advantage from Dockerill, with Snetterton winners David Fairbrother (Slidesports) and Kyle-Henney less than one tenth behind.
Despite Kyle-Henney being the first to improve his time on new tyres, he starts both races from second while category leader Jennings will take both starts from third. Fairbrother ended fourth, Matt Telling (Welch Motorsport) fifth, and Rupert Martin (Team Parker Racing) sixth.
Changeable weather and close margins have the potential to provide two of the most unpredictable races of the season. As the title fight comes more closely into focus, the championship top three start on the front two rows for both races, while the chasing pack have more confidence and pace than ever before.
Round ten gets underway with a rolling start at 10.50 tomorrow over a distance of 32 laps. Round eleven takes place over the same distance at 16.15 with a standing start.