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GT4: Johnson and Robinson dominate to give Optimum double pole at Oulton

28 May 2016

PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport dominated both GT4 sessions to secure its second and third consecutive pole positions of the season.


Johnson was first up in the Am segment but didn’t have things all his own way initially after Beechdean AMR’s Jack Bartholomew bumped the Brands Hatch race winner down to second after the first runs. But the Ginetta driver wasn’t to be denied and responded next time around to post a 1m43.866s lap.


A red flag with three minutes remaining did nothing for the drivers’ rhythm, and there were few improvements when the action resumed. Indeed, Bartholomew could nothing to bridge his 0.124s deficit and lines up second, one place ahead of Alex Reed’s Lanan Racing G55.


Sandy Mitchell set the fastest first sector of anyone in the closing stages but aborted the lap after encountering traffic. He starts fourth aboard the Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S GT4 ahead of Century Motorsport’s Sean Byrne who was one of the few to improve after the red flag interruption.


William Phillips’ RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta ended up sixth despite causing the red flag for clipping a tyre wall that subsequently required repairs, while Anna Walewska’s second Century entry made it five G55s in the top-seven.


Matthew Graham’s Macmillan Racing Aston Martin was eighth ahead of debutant Aaron Mason and Kieran Griffin.


The GT4 Pro session was a little more straightforward for Johnson’s co-driver Robinson who was never headed after the first round of flying laps. Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse’s Ciaran Haggerty initially challenged but couldn’t sustain a rate of improvement that saw Robinson ultimately set two times fast enough for pole, the first of which - 1m43.108s - proved quickest of all.


In the end it was Scott Malvern who came closest to snatching pole in what would have been a fairytale end to Simpson Motorsport’s day. Their Ginetta had been quick in practice before sustaining a freak accident and damage at the end of FP2, leaving the crew with a race against time to fix their Ginetta.


Incredibly there was time for co-driver Nick Jones to complete an installation lap during the Am session before Malvern was unleashed in the Pro segment. An early setback resulted in his fastest time and second place being deleted for exceeding track limits, but the former Formula Ford champion responded to reclaim a place on the front row in the dying moments.


That bumped Haggerty down to third by little more than half a tenth, while Matthew George’s Generation AMR SuperRacing Aston Martin was only 0.017s further back in fourth.


Nathan Freke’s FP1 pace suggested he and Century would prove serious pole position contenders, but he could only manage fifth in the end, one place clear of Jake Giddings’ JWBird Motorsport V8 Vantage.


Another Aston - the Macmillan Racing example - driven by Jack Mitchell ended up seventh, albeit 1.2s shy of top spot, while Abbie Eaton completed the top-eight in her Ebor GT-run Maserati MC GranTurismo.


Graham Johnson, PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “I’m quite disappointed with the lap, actually. I got blocked and could have gone a lot quicker. It’s not often you’re on pole and feel disappointed but I would have liked to demonstrate our true pace. You always want to do your best and when you don’t there’s a competitive element that says ‘I could have done more’. But ok, after what happened at Rockingham, I guess it’s good that we were able to come here with a rebuilt car and underline our inherent speed.”


Mike Robinson, PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “In stark contrast to Graham I’m very pleased! I got a little lucky with the traffic because I didn’t get out of the pits first, but still ensured I had enough room to set a decent time. I had no traffic at all. It’s good because we know this is going to be the last ‘Ginetta circuit’, and after what happened at Rockingham it’s important to score as many points as possible. I carried on pushing on my final lap because my engineer said I was two tenths off, which I thought meant we’d lost pole. The car feels great, which is just as well because there are plenty of guys out there who have the potential to do very well on Monday.”


British GT returns to Oulton Park for its traditional pair of one-hour bank holiday races this Monday.