Ecurie Ecosse

Superb comeback from near disaster at SnettertonEcurie Ecosse went through a topsy-turvy time in rounds seven and eight of the British GT Championship at Snetterton last weekend, nearly having to withdraw from the event after a heavy crash in free practice, but then bouncing back to take eighth and fourth places and consolidate their fourth position in the Championship standings. This means that we have kept up our incredible record of finishing in the points in every British GT race this year – the only car to do so. After the car sustained heavy damage in Saturday’s incident, the Barwell crew pulled out an incredible effort to get the car rebuilt ready for Sunday’s races, including making an overnight trip to Holland for parts (!), and the team produced a racing car that ran both faultlessly and fast during Sunday’s two one hour races.

With 20 minutes of Saturday afternoon’s second Free Practice session left, Ollie Millroy (standing in for the injured Olly Bryant) was pushing hard to establish a new slick tyre time before an imminent heavy rain shower arrived and soaked the circuit. As Ollie tried to carve his way through some GT4 traffic without compromising his lap, unfortunately the car got off line and onto the dirty side of the track where it got away from the British GT debutant and hit the barriers, sustaining extensive damage to the front end. Our own spares package covered replacing the majority of the damaged parts, however, there were still various components that we didn’t have on board such was the scale of the damage.

At Barwell we have long-standing experience of being able to ‘pull a rabbit out of a hat’ after being faced with such situations. We contacted top Dutch BMW Z4 GT3 team, DB Motorsport, to see if they had the parts that we needed in stock at their workshop near Rotterdam. With no other teams running the Z4 in the UK, this was the closest location where we could find a solution, and our Dutch friends were very kindly able to come up with the goods. We thus dispatched technician Tim Shaw in the Barwell team van on an overnight parts collection mission to Holland! The rest of the Barwell crew set about rebuilding the extensive front end damage to the Ecurie Ecosse Z4. By midnight the BMW had been fully rebuilt & was on the set up patch waiting for the final missing components.

The remaining parts arrived just after 8.30a.m., unfortunately not leaving us sufficient time to get the car rebuilt ready for the nine o’clock morning warm-up. This meant that Alasdair McCaig and Ollie would have to go straight into race one without any running under their belt in the freshly rebuilt car, and poor Millroy would be forced to step back into the Z4 during the heat of the race for the first time since his accident. Our engineers had carried out a full set-up of the rebuilt BMW, however, and were happy that everything was as it should be and that the car’s handling would be as expected.

We had been dealt a stroke of good fortune with the fact that Saturday’s official qualifying session was cancelled due to the monsoon-proportion storm that hit Norfolk, which flooded Snetterton and rendered the track conditions unsafe. The officials thus decided to use the results of the two Free Practice sessions as the basis for the grids of Sunday’s two one-hour races. This meant that we would start ninth and seventh on the grid respectively, instead of what would have been last for both races if the Official Qualifying sessions had been run without us being able to take part.

Alasdair was certainly keen to capitalise on this good fortune in the first one hour encounter, as he made a great start and moved straight up to sixth place. He was then at the end of a four car ‘train’ that were all queued up trying to find a way past the Porsche of Ashburn, which, as usual, was quick down the straights but slow in the corners. With Ashburn proving hard to pass, he was costing his faster pursuers a lot of time and allowed the leading McLaren of Bell/Bateman to get away. This pack eventually found their way past Ashburn, and in the ensuing scrapping Alasdair moved the Ecurie Ecosse car up to fourth spot. He was then challenging for third but braked too late in his efforts to take the place and slipped back to seventh place again! The Scotsman then made it back up to fifth before heading for the pits for the mandatory stop and driver change just after the 25-minute mark. Due to our third place finish last time out at Brands Hatch we had to take an extra 5 seconds ‘success penalty’ minimum pit stop time, which meant that Ollie lost a place in the pits and rejoined the fray in sixth position. This also put him right in thick of a scrap with the Trackspeed Porsches of Westbrook and Harvey, but unsurprisingly Ollie still had to play himself back into the ‘groove’ after his previous day’s crash and he took it cautiously in the heat of battle and brought the car home in 8th place.

With the first race under his belt, Ollie approached race two ready to put up a good fight and help Alasdair bring home a good result. He immediately got stuck into the action and in the early stages was running in sixth place at the head of another train of cars stuck behind a Porsche, this time the Hetherington/Parish version. This cost Ollie dearly as it allowed more cars behind to close up the gap that he had built up on them during the opening laps. He did get past the Porsche to move up to fifth but then became embroiled in a three-way tussle to claim the spot. By then end of his 35-minute stint Ollie was still with this bunch and handed the car over to Alasdair in seventh position. McCaig then underlined the great form he showed in race one by really attacking the cars immediately in front of him. He swiftly moved up to fifth place and then relentlessly hunted down the Ferrari of Dhillon/Scott to claim fourth place in the closing stages.

Mark Lemmer: “Ollie’s accident in free practice was unfortunate but it gave us the chance to show what we are made of, it was an unbelievable effort by the team and drivers to bounce back from that and achieve such solid results to keep us firmly in the title hunt.”

Alasdair McCaig: “To come away from the weekend 16 points closer to the championship leaders is a great result especially given the incident on Saturday. The fact we made it onto the grid on Sunday morning at all is testament to the ability and determination of the Barwell team. I was gutted not to be driving with Olly Bryant this weekend, and with no previous experience on Avons there was a lot of pressure on Ollie Millroy to help keen me in the running for the title, but he did a great job in both races and I’m really looking forward to Silverstone now.”

From Ollie Millroy: “It was an action packed British GT debut for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The team did a fantastic job to repair the car after Saturday’s incident and we had two solid results in the races. It was great to share a car with Alasdair and I really appreciate the opportunity that Olly Bryant and the Ecurie Ecosse team gave me this weekend.”

From Oliver Bryant:  “The team did an outstanding job to repair the car this weekend, going the extra mile to get the car ready for the race, so all credit to them. Alasdair had his most competitive drive of the season pulling off some fantastic overtakes in both races which was great to see. I am really looking forward to getting back in the car with him from Silverstone onwards and will do my utmost to help him challenge for the drivers title.”

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