SCOTS YOUNG GUNS Sandy Mitchell and Ciaran Haggerty have rounded off their debut season in the British GT Championship with two major awards, writes Jim McGill.
First Mitchell, the 16-year-old from Forfar, and 20-year-old Johnstone-born Haggerty — who piloted their Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S GT4 to pole positions and race wins in Europe’s toughest sportscar championship — each received the British GT Rookie of the Year Award.
Then, just six days later at the Scottish Motor Racing Club’s annual awards, Mitchell received the Ecurie Ecosse Hubcap. An actual hub cap from one of the Ecurie Ecosse Le Mans 24 Hours-winning D-Type Jaguars, the prestigious award is given to the most promising Young Scottish Driver of the Year.
Coincidentally, Haggerty received the same Award in 2014.
Neither Scot had driven a sportscar before the start of the 2016 season, but the duo quickly demonstrated they had the pace, and talent, to compete at the front.
After a debut pole position at Silverstone, they followed that with another pole at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
The momentum continued with their maiden victory in the next round when they dominated the weekend at Snetterton to claim their first win of the season.
In doing so, Mitchell, aged 16 years 169 days, became the youngest-ever British GT race winner. He was also the youngest to grab pole position and fastest lap.
Then, in the season finale at Donington, Haggerty delivered a heroic drive — overcoming extreme pain from a hand injury he suffered just days before the race — to guide the Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse car to a second successive win.
The duo, who were also instrumental in developing the all-new McLaren 570S GT4 race car, battled back from a frustrating opening half of the season to finish third in the championship, and second in the Silver Cup.
“It was nice to snatch third at the final round, especially as after Spa we thought there wouldn’t be any trophies at the end of the year,” Mitchell, who also picked up the Sunoco GT4 Fastest Drivers of the Year Award, said.
“To come back the way we did has been very impressive. I’d like to thank McLaren GT managing director Andrew Kirkaldy for giving Ciaran and I the opportunity to race the new 570S GT4; I’ve enjoyed every minute of racing and helping to develop it.
“The same goes to Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse; together we put in a lot of hard work to get to where we were by the end of the season.
“It’s also an honour to have won the Ecurie Ecosse Le Mans Hubcap Trophy. So many incredible Scottish racing drivers have won this trophy in the past, and it was a great to be on stage with a number of them at the SMRC Awards.”
Haggerty too was delighted, and surprised, to pick up the British GT Rookie of the Year Award.
“What a fantastic trophy haul,” he beamed. “I knew we’d be picking up third overall in the class and second in Silver Cup, but I wasn’t expecting to receive Rookie of the Year. I thought one or two others might pip us to that. It’s fantastic to win it.
“I knew before the year that the car would be fast and that I could do the job. The only question mark, with such a new car, was reliability. But once we sorted that everything else started falling into place. It’s been an awesome season.”
Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse team principal, Hugh McCaig, was the first to congratulate the two young drivers, and pay tribute to McLaren GT.
“It was fantastic to see Sandy and Ciaran take the Rookie of the Year trophy,” McCaig said, “and a terrific boost for Sandy to receive the Ecurie Ecosse Hubcap at the SMRC awards.
“It’s a great way to top-off the season, which has been a very steep learning curve for them. They have both shown their speed and faultless driving throughout the year which I am sure they will build upon in the coming years.
“I would like to thank McLaren GT for giving the boys the opportunity of being part of the development of the McLaren 570S GT4 car. This has been invaluable experience which I am sure will stay with them for the rest of their driving careers.”
And the success of the two young drivers was praised by Euan Shand, chairman of the team’s title sponsor, Black Bull Scotch Whisky.
“There’s no question 2016 was a great year for Sandy and Ciaran,” Shand said, “and we’re delighted with how they proved themselves in the GT arena for their first year. These awards are great recognition for their achievements and tops a year neither will forget.”
CAPTION: Sandy Mitchell (left) and Ciaran Haggerty with their British GT Championship Rookie of the Year Awards.
CAPTION: Sandy Mitchell (left) receives the Ecurie Ecosse Hubcap at the Scottish Motor Racing Club awards from SMRC chairman Hugh McCaig. Photo by Jim Moir.