Ecurie Ecosse

Star cameo performance from Ecurie Ecosse at SilverstoneEcurie Ecosse continued its Blancpain Endurance Series programme on home turf at Silverstone last weekend, with its Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3, after a highly encouraging debut at Monza in April. Another incredible 53-car entry was assembled for round two of the championship around the Silverstone GP track, featuring the cream of Europe’s GT racing teams and drivers. During the course of Sunday’s 3-hour encounter the Ecurie Ecosse BMW featured in the battle for the top 10 in Pro-Am Class and top 20 places overall, although various issues late on in the race restricted our final result to 25th in class and 34th overall. In the middle hour of the race, however, our car was one ofThe star performers on the track. With young Ollie Millroy at the wheel it was for some laps the fastest car outright on the official timing screen around a very wet Silverstone, and consistently matched the pace of the overall race leaders as he worked his way up to 18th overall and 10th in class by the end of his stint.

With regular Ecosse driver, Andrew Smith, unfortunately not able to take up his place in the squad at Silverstone due to a long-standing personal commitment, joining Ollie and Joe Twyman for this event was experienced GT campaigner Marco Attard. With Saturday morning’s Blancpain test session devoted to getting ‘Bronze’ level drivers (including Joe and Marco) extra mileage in the Pro-Am Class cars, we were then able to put ‘Silver’-graded Millroy in the car for the first time during the official practice session to work on the car set-up. Ollie then set the 22nd fastest time overall in our 2011-spec BMW Z4 during the Pre-Qualifying session, and we were shaping up well to get into the top 20 and top 10 in Class during Saturday afternoon’s Official Qualifying period. Unfortunately we then had some set-up and traffic issues during this session which meant that we didn’t set a time which was anywhere near representative of what we were capable of, and which was actually no faster (on a set of new Michelin tyres) than we had managed when Ollie had driven his first set of exploratory laps in the early part of the morning’s practice session on old tyres. Such is the level of competitiveness in this series that not posting a representative time meant we slipped all the way down to 42nd on the grid!

Just as at Monza for the first race of the year, weather conditions at Silverstone were absolutely appalling for the start of the Blancpain Endurance Series 3-hour (73-lap) race. Although the rain was not quite as torrential as it had been in Italy, track conditions were still treacherous and the race officials took the wise decision to start the race under Safety Car conditions and let all the drivers feel what the circuit was like for a few laps. When the field was released on lap four the spray being kicked up by the tyres of 50+ GT cars was still very thick, and the lack of visibility made the situation harder and harder the further down the grid order you were. This made life very difficult for Joe during his opening stint, but he made sure that he didn’t make anymistakes and kept the car on the circuit and in good condition to hand over to Ollie in 42nd place as he returned to the team’s pit lane bay after one hour of racing. Even with a small issue with the car’s on-board air jacking system, the Barwell pit crew were still amongst the top 10 quickest out of the 53 entrants as they re-fuelled and changed all four tyres without drama during the first mandatory pit stop.

With some clear track space now at his disposal after the first round of everybody’s pit stops had been completed, Ollie was very soon setting some incredibly quick times. It was only when we checked out the lap times of the overall race leaders that we realised just HOW quick the former Formula BMW Scholarship driver was going…as it became apparent that he was consistently one of the top three fastest men overall on the circuit! He very quickly made up 10 places as he homed in on a big gaggle of cars which formed the main midfield pack of the race. During the second half of his 70-minute stint Ollie then relentlessly passed this entire group, sometimes overtaking two cars a lap, as he moved us up into the top 20 overall and right on the tail of a three-way battle for 10th in Pro-Am Class.

The second round of pit stops then commenced as the race entered its final hour, and the team’s pit crew again serviced the car with fuel and tyres in ultra-slick fashion. Marco thus had the unenviable task of being pitched into the deep end as he took over from Ollie and had to join a very wet track in what to him was still an unfamiliar car. Unfortunately before he had the chance to settle into a rhythm he ran wide onto the grass on the exit of a corner, and although this was only a minor excursion he soon noticed the water temperature rising on the dashboard information. Marco then wisely brought the car into the pits before any potential harm was done to the engine, whereupon our mechanics were able to clear off the offending clumps of mud and grass which had covered the radiator intake grille. However, to compound the negative effect of this incident, he was then called back into the pits by the race officials as he had exceeded the pit lane speed limit, and had to take a ‘stop-go’ penalty for his troubles.

These visits to the pits had cost a lot of time and obviously dropped the car back down the order, but Marco then really got the bit between his teeth for the second half of his stint and started setting some competitive lap times. As the racing line on the track dried out slightly it became very greasy, and many of the other Bronze drivers started to struggle badly for pace, but Marco was lapping confidently over five seconds a lap quicker than a lot of them. He then caught and passed the Mike Wainwright-driven Gulf McLaren on the penultimate lap to claim our final finishing position.

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