Ecurie Ecosse suffered late heartbreak in yesterday’s (July 1) Blancpain Endurance Series event at Paul Ricard as a top-ten class finish slipped from their grasp on the final lap of the three-hour race.
Campaigning their Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4, the famed Scottish squad enjoyed stellar progress at the French venue to run eighth in the ultra competitive Pro Am category and 13th overall with just a few corners remaining.
Their prodigious race pace came after a less satisfying qualifying session in which the BMW’s lack of top-end speed put it at a clear disadvantage on Paul Ricard’s long Mistral Straight.
However come Sunday’s main event the car’s consistency throughout stints, strong set-up and excellent use of its tyres allowed the Ecosse squad to shine. Ollie Millroy took the start and completed a long opening run, guiding the BMW up the order before ducking into the pits to hand over to Joe Twyman.
Picking up where his team-mate left off, Twyman was able to further advance the outfit’s cause by making progress through the field, making up a number of spots during his spell aboard the Z4.
He would then make way for the team’s British GT pilot Oliver Bryant, who joined the Blancpain roster for Paul Ricard due to a long-standing personal commitment for regular racer Andrew Smith. Bryant continued the team’s forward progress, lapping on the same pace as fellow BMW squad – and eventual overall runners-up – Marc VDS Racing. Beginning his final lap, Bryant sat eighth in class and 13th overall.
However having adopted an aggressive strategy – and with the French contest representing the team’s first long-haul race in dry conditions – the BMW was marginal on fuel heading into the closing stages, causing it to slow just short of the chequered flag and costing the team several positions.
Having run eighth just metres from the line they would eventually be classified a still-impressive 13th in class and 20th overall. Despite having some cause for disappointment, the team will be significantly buoyed by the performance of the car and all three drivers during the race as the Scottish squad took its chance to shine on the international stage.
Hugh McCaig, Ecurie Ecosse team manager: “Though the result didn’t reflect our efforts today this was still a great event for us. The BMW Z4 is a superbly consistent car, capable of producing the same sort of times at the end of a stint as at the beginning, and it was good to be able to show that in dry conditions. All three drivers were typically strong and thoroughly deserved a top-10 finish. That we so narrowly missed out on it will spur us on further next time.”
Oliver Bryant, Ecurie Ecosse driver: “Firstly, I am very grateful to the team for the opportunity to join them at Paul Ricard in the Blancpain Endurance Series. It was my first time on the track but a couple of hours in the simulator before we left proved very helpful and I was immediately on the pace. We proved that we can compete at this level and were on course for a top-ten finish. Both Joe and Ollie delivered excellent stints and it was a shame to have the issue right at the end, but we can take heart from how well the car works on the Michelin tyres and the pace shown throughout.”
Joe Twyman, Ecurie Ecosse driver: “In terms of what I learnt and progress made, Paul Ricard was by far my best weekend of the year. Obviously the end result was very disappointing, but to be so much closer to the outright pace of the car was hugely encouraging. The team did a great job to get through this five-week period of back-to-back racing and I’m looking forward to being in the car at our next Blancpain event.”
Ollie Millroy, Ecurie Ecosse driver: “After a difficult qualifying I’m very pleased with the race result – despite the positions lost, 13th in class is still a strong showing. This was my first time at Paul Ricard but I settled into the circuit quickly and felt very comfortable with the set-up of the car. Once again the whole crew gave 100% and both of my team-mates put in great performances during their stints.”
Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Managing Director: “I’m really proud of the whole team this weekend. We fought hard to come through the field, with the drivers producing excellent stints and phenomenal work from the pit crew during the stops. What’s more, we finished as the top British team in a 55-car-strong field and were only caught out on strategy by our own incredible race pace.”