Bushell had headed the timesheets in the morning but it was in the afternoon’s session – when weather conditions improved slightly – that the really fast laps started to come.
PP Motorsport’s James Colburn was fastest for a while (52.171 seconds) before Ciceley Motorsport’s Max Coates knocked him off the top spot – only to be beaten almost immediately by WDE’s Paul Rivett with a lap in 52.010s.
Coates then became the first driver to dip beneath the 52s mark with a sensational time of 51.843s as Bushell followed him with 51.940s.
A roll for JamSport’s Lucas Orrock exiting Graham Hill Bend caused a brief red flag stoppage and when the session resumed Bushell punched in the dizzying 51.727s that would leave him on top.
Indeed shortly after he had done so came a second red flag that spelled an early end to the session – caused by an unfortunate heavy collision between the cars of Paul Streather (WDE) and Graham Field (JamSport), again exiting Graham Hill Bend.
The top three thus read Bushell, Coates and Rivett. Pyro’s 16-year-old signing Jack McCarthy stunned with the fourth fastest time and later received high praise from Bushell. WDE's Lee Pattison (relying on his morning time), Colburn and the stricken Streather were next up.
Dan Zelos made it all four WDE drivers inside the top ten with the eighth fastest time. Westbourne’s ‘rookie’ James Dorlin and DRM’s Daniel Rowbottom completed the top ten. Ash Hand was 15th on his first time in a Clio Cup car (and on Michelin tyres) since finishing runner-up in the 2015 season…
Bushell, from nearby Tunbridge Wells, commented: “We know Ashley Sutton did a 51.8s lap for Pyro two years ago but this takes it to the next step – the new Michelin tyre really bring the Clio Cup car to life and it’s a great start to the weekend for me.
“I’ve got to say I’m very impressed with Jack McCarthy. His first event, right on the pace in both sessions and on cold tyres I could not keep with him…”
Coates said: “I don’t know if there was anything else left from me in that session but I’m pleased with my time. Qualifying tomorrow will be into the 51s again if the conditions are similar and I’d say it could be even faster but to do two laps at that level which you need for strong starting positions on the two race grids will be tough…”
CLICK HERE for all the times plus speed trap figures and sector analysis from today’s testing.