Ecurie Ecosse produced a remarkable comeback display during the British GT Championship’s double-header weekend at Snetterton (4/5 August) as their Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 overcame heavy crash damage on Saturday to score strong points in both of Sunday’s races.
The level of repair required on the car, coupled with a scarcity of available parts, raised questions over the team’s participation in Sunday’s pair of one-hour outings.
However, a herculean effort from the Barwell Motorsport crew – which included an overnight trip to the Netherlands to collect spares – saw the car ready to run in time for the opening contest.
The legendary Scottish squad’s Blancpain Endurance Series racer Ollie Millroy was standing in for injured British GT regular Oliver Bryant at the Norfolk circuit, partnering Alasdair McCaig as the Scotsman sought to consolidate his fourth spot in the drivers’ championship.
Millroy – who has shown eye-catching pace in each of his Blancpain outings this season – was pushing hard to set a quick time in free practice before an imminent rain shower hit the track. Unfortunately the Z4 drifted off-line while cutting through slower GT4 traffic, sending it into the tyre barriers and badly damaging the front end.
But thanks to the efforts of the Barwell crew a potential non-scoring weekend was avoided, the Z4 receiving feverish repairs that were still underway early on Sunday morning.
The team also enjoyed a stroke of luck on Saturday, with qualifying cancelled after heavy storms left the Norfolk venue undriveable. As such the grid was decided using practice times, placing the Ecosse car ninth and seventh respectively for Sunday’s two one-hour contests.
British GT race-winner McCaig tackled the opening stint of the first event and enjoyed a strong getaway to grab sixth spot. He then found himself part of a four-car train headed by the Trackspeed Porsche of David Ashburn. Taking advantage of this, McCaig leapt to fourth only to slip back to P7 as he gamely made an effort to snatch third.
He would quickly climb back to fifth before taking to the pits for the mandatory stop and driver change. The team’s podium finish last time out at Brands Hatch incurred Ecosse an extra five-second success penalty, costing the Z4 – which now had Millroy at the wheel – a number of positions on-track.
Still looking to re-discover his groove following the practice accident, Millroy played it cool to bring the car home in eighth spot, thus extending the team’s enviable record of having finished amongst the points scorers at every race this season.
With his confidence fully restored, Millroy began race two in competitive mood and immediately launched himself into some thrilling wheel-to-wheel battles. The former BMW Scholarship winner quickly climbed to sixth and then snatched P5 before another tightly fought scrap ensued. Millroy would eventually hand over to McCaig in seventh spot.
The Scotsman then took the bit between his teeth by swiftly grabbing back fifth before helping himself to P4 late on, further extending the team’s points run and keeping McCaig fourth in the British GT standings. The Scot is now less than a race win in arrears of top spot having out-scored the championship leader over the Snetterton weekend, a stunning achievement following the team’s potentially disastrous Saturday.
Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Team Principal: “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, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: “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. He did a great job in both races and I’m really looking forward to Silverstone now.”
Ollie Millroy, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: “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.”
Oliver Bryant, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: “The team did an outstanding job to repair the car this weekend, going the extra mile to get it 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.”
The team’s next British GT encounter takes place at Silverstone (8/9 September) where McCaig will be hoping to further advance his championship standing with the fit-again Bryant. Meanwhile the Blancpain crew of Millroy, Andrew Smith and Joe Twyman travel to iconic German venue the Nurbürgring over the weekend of 22/23 September.