Ben Barnicoat took McLaren’s first outright Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup pole position in five years while AKKA-ASP’s Raffaele Marciello also topped one of the two qualifying sessions held at Brands Hatch on Saturday afternoon.
Barnicoat clocked the fastest lap of the opening 20-minute session aboard the No. 38 McLaren 720S GT3 that he shares with fellow Englishman Oliver Wilkinson, to secure a long-awaited Sprint Cup pole for the British manufacturer on home soil.
McLaren’s last start from the front of a Sprint Cup race occurred at the Nürburgring in 2016, with a 650S GT3 run by Garage 59 and piloted by Alvaro Parente and Rob Bell.
Barnicoat in turn delivered the first GTWC Europe pole for JOTA’s McLaren model that the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 team started running this season.
Marciello, meanwhile, charged to the quickest lap time of the event so far behind the wheel of the No. 88 AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo during the second 20-minute run.
Barnicoat popped up at the top of the Q1 leaderboard with three and a half minutes to go, seizing the optimal grid position for Race 1 away from Team WRT’s Charles Weerts with a 1:24.341 best.
Timur Boguslavskiy also registered a late flyer in the No. 88 AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG to secure a front-row starting position alongside the locally-based JOTA McLaren.
Boguslavskiy ended up 0.064 seconds shy of pole, while Weerts ultimately settled for third with the No. 32 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo that he co-drives with Dries Vanthoor.
Pre-Qualifying pace setter Luca Stolz waited until the latter stages to emerge from the pits, handing the German driver a relatively clear track on which to wind up for the fourth-quickest time overall for Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT.
Ricardo Feller claimed the Silver Cup class pole for Race 1 in fifth position for the Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini squad, one place ahead of category rival Pierre-Alexandre Jean driving for Bentley outfit CMR.
Both Feller and Jean went quickest outright in the early parts of the opening session before some of their competitors caught up.
Silver Cup cars occupied the positions from sixth through to tenth at the end of Q1.
The second qualifying session took place immediately after the first due to the compact two-day timetable of this weekend’s event.
Marciello was on the pace immediately, considering the threat of a rain shower from overcast skies.
The Italian reeled off his 1:23.660 maximum at the first time of asking. This initially looked set to be a clear candidate for pole, however several drivers made improvements over the next few minutes to bring the margin down.
Stolz’s driving partner Maro Engel came closest, with the 2019 Brands Hatch double winner ending up just 0.091 seconds short of his fellow Mercedes-AMG factory driver.
Engel slotted in between Marciello and Vanthoor, who initially went to second in the No. 32 WRT Audi before settling for an identical result to his teammate Weerts.
Mercedes-AMGs occupied four of the top five positions as AKKA-ASP’s Jules Gounon and Tokosport WRT Silver Cup driver Oscar Tunjo surrounded Vanthoor at the sharp end of the grid. Vanthoor and Weerts won the last two Sprint Cup races at Misano.
Any chances of a further challenge to Marciello’s provisional pole standing were eradicated by the arrival of rain approximately eight minutes into the session.
WRT driver Ryuichiro Tomita was classified sixth in the No. 31 Audi, ahead of AKKA-ASP’s Jim Pla who made it three Silver entries in a row.
Christopher Haase was eighth for the Sainteloc Racing Audi squad, ahead of Henrique Chaves who completed a sweep of the Pro-Am poles for British team Barwell Motorsport on home ground.
Chaves’ time of 1:24.231 came after his co-driver Miguel Ramos led the Pro-Am class in Q1 as the 23rd-fastest driver out of 28 in the field.
After Barnicoat’s leading Q1 performance, Wilkinson qualified the JOTA McLaren 18th on the grid for the second of Sunday’s races.
The opening 60-minute race of the weekend – and the seventh of the season – starts at 11 a.m. local time (6 a.m. EST). Race 2 gets underway at 3:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m. EST).