Having fallen just shy of leading the way in first practice, the Mtech team hit the front in the second hour of running ahead of qualifying for the penultimate round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Donington Park.
In a session brought to a slightly premature halt by a red flag in the closing minutes, Matt Griffin posted the fastest time at the wheel of the #21 Ferrari 458 Italia; stopping the clocks in 1m 30.855s.
That lap was the quickest GT lap of the weekend so far as Griffin bettered the time set by Tim Bridgman’s Porsche earlier in the day.
Griffin ended the session 0.187s clear of the United Autosports Audi of Matt Bell, which went three tenths of a second quicker than it had done in the morning session to emerge as the closest challenger to the Ferrari.
“Like this morning, we’re just a little bit off the pace,” Bell said. “We’re working to improve the car for qualifying but the reason why we are lacking a little bit is down to the Balance of Performance more than anything. The Ferrari and the Porsche just have that little bit extra downforce compared to the Audi.
“We went well in the two-hour race at Snetterton earlier in the year and managed our tyres well, although the stints here will be shorter despite the fact that race in longer. At the moment, we are just looking for the final piece of the puzzle.”
Alex Mortimer was third quickest in the leading CRS Ferrari in third, with the sister car just 0.036s behind in the hands of Glynn Geddie. Just 0.082 behind Geddie was FP1 pace-setter Bridgman in the first of the two Trackspeed Porsches, with Stephen Jelley in the second car completing the top six.
Jelley was the final driver to lap within a second of the quickest time but he looked set to improve on that when he set a purple first sector only for Jay Palmer to go off into the gravel at McLeans in his Audi and bring the session to an end four minutes early.
Elsewhere in the field, there were big gains for the new Rosso Verde Ferrari 458 with Gordon Shedden posting the ninth quickest time but further problems for the Preci-Spark Mercedes, with an engine issue leaving the car down in 18th place after just six laps.
GT4 was headed by the Scuderia Vittoria Ginetta of Dan Denis and David McDonald after the pair edged out the Lotus of Phil Glew and James Nash by less than a tenth of a second.
“We only used old tyres in FP1 to work on the balance of the car,” McDonald said, “and then we put new tyres on for that session. There are a few small things we need to work on for qualifying, but we’re confident we have the pace.”
The Invitational Class Nissan was twelfth quickest, with the GT3B Ferrari of Aaron Scott and John Dhillon in 15th – a place ahead of the GTC Chevron of Jordan Witt and Anthony Reid.