Sam Gornall enjoyed the perfect start to the 2024 Vertu MINI CHALLENGE Trophy season with a lap record-breaking performance in qualifying at Snetterton.

The session was the first under a revised qualifying format for the series this season, with the fastest laps from qualifying being used to determine the grid for race three, and the second quickest times in the session determining the line-up for race one.

Westbourne Motorsport racer Gornall would prove to be in a class of his own during the session, where he lapped more than a second under the previous qualifying lap record.

A time of 2:18.215s was enough to beat Alex Solley pole for the third race by more than seven-tenths of a second, whilst his second-quickest time earned pole for race one was also quicker than anyone else was able to manage.

“The double pole is great – I’m over the moon,” he said. “I ended last year strongly and have carried the momentum forward and we are looking strong. I’m a much better driver now than I was last year and it meant I was smart enough to focus on getting track position, which I wouldn’t have done twelve months ago.

“That knowledge really helped and to come away with a new lap record is great; I can’t complain.”

As well as taking second on the grid for the final race, Solley’s second-quickest lap – set right at the end of the session – would also secure him a place on the front row for race one later today as the Graves Motorsport man bids to challenge for the title that eluded him last year.

Solley is the highest-placed returning driver in the field this season having finished fourth in 2023.

“I’m looking forward to the races but it was tough to find clear track and we were working to improve the balance of the car,” he said. “Conditions are changing and we had to adapt but I’m happy so far as I know there is more to come.

“Knowing we had to get two laps in round here was always going to be a challenge given how long the circuit is and how short the session was, so two front-row starts is good.”

Solley would ultimately split two Westbourne Motorsport cars on the grid as Harry Hickton ended up with the third quickest time ahead of the impressive Jamie Keates.

Keates has undergone a huge fitness drive over the winter in a bid to improve his on-track performances, and early impressions were more than favourable as he put his PerformanceTek Racing-run car on the second row of the weekend finale.

Reece Lycett was quickest of the Chandler Motorsport entries in fifth spot, just ahead of team-mate Ronnie Smith – who was fastest of the rookies.

Alex Keens, Harvey Riby, Luca Marinoni Osborne and James Black rounded out the top ten.

Whilst the top three remains the same on second-quickest times for the race one grid, Smith will line up on the second of the grid ahead of Keens and Riby, with Keates dropping back to seventh to share row four of the grid with Black,

Marinoni Osborne and Frankie Taylor then complete the top ten.