Ecurie Ecosse Powered By Black Bull vaulted to the top of the British GT Championship standings at Rockingham on Bank Holiday Monday (May 5) after Marco Attard and Alexander Sims finished runners-up in the two-hour enduro.
But despite another strong result the legendary Scottish squad was left slightly disappointed when unlucky Safety Car periods hindered their chances of a second win in as many rounds after victory in race two at Oulton Park’s season opener a fortnight ago.
Their Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3 and its drivers were certainly the stars of Sunday’s qualifying session, with Attard and Sims setting the benchmark laps in both Am and Pro segments respectively to produce a combined time over a second faster than their nearest rivals.
Having made a flawless start to Monday’s race, Attard set about building a comfortable gap back to his pursuers only for the first of two Safety Car periods to wipe out his hard earned six-second advantage.
Three laps after racing resumed, and with 50 minutes gone, he pitted from the lead and handed over to Sims. As a result of the team’s Oulton victory, the BMW factory driver was required to serve an additional 20-second ‘success penalty’ before re-joining eighth.
While the team had made provision for that handicap, its victory chances were effectively ended by a second Safety Car period late in the driver change window, which allowed a number of the Ams that had stayed out to pit while their rivals circulated at a much reduced pace.
FF Corse’s Gary Eastwood and Rob Barff gained most, with the Ferrari re-joining from its stop half a lap clear of the pack. And even a subsequent drive-through penalty – for exiting a closed pit-lane – would still result in an unassailable 20-second lead.
Not that anyone had told Sims, who within eight laps of the re-start had stormed through the field to second and set fastest lap in the process. First up were Joe Osborne’s Triple 8 BMW and the Beechdean Aston Martin of Jonny Adam, both of which were dealt with in the space of one lap. Triple 8’s second Z4 of Luke Hines received similar treatment next time around before Sims also made short work of the Richard Lyons-driven AF Corse Ferrari.
Not even Sims’ heroics would be enough to reel in Barff’s leading Ferrari however, which ultimately took the chequered flag 18 seconds clear. But with extra points available for the two-hour race, second place still represented a fine effort given the circumstances.
Marco Attard: “After victory at Oulton it was really important to maintain our strong start to the season, and especially so given that Rockingham was worth extra points. It was certainly another fantastic effort from everyone in the team. The car’s set-up and pace were both really good, and even the tyres lasted well, which is unusual for Rockingham! We’ll now set our sights on the three-hour race at Silverstone where hopefully we won’t suffer from another Safety Car nightmare!”
Alexander Sims: “It’s great to come away from the second round of the year with two podiums already under our belts. It was a challenging start to the weekend as we weren’t where we needed to be pace-wise in free practice, but the team worked really hard throughout Sunday to give us a fantastic car with which we could secure pole position. Marco then did a superb job to pull out a lead in his stint, so it was a little frustrating that the Safety Car periods fell when they did, just before the pit-stop window. However, we responded well and did all we could to maximise what was in our control. Coming away with a second place finish was therefore still very satisfying.”
Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Managing Director: “We stepped up a gear at the weekend with fantastic and faultless performances from both Marco and Alexander. I’m also satisfied we got the most from the chassis at a circuit where it’s always difficult to find a good set-up. In the end we were a little unlucky not to take the win but can look forward confidently to Silverstone and beyond.”
Ecurie Ecosse’s attention now switches to this season’s second Blancpain Endurance Series round at Silverstone on May 23-25 where Olly Bryant, Andrew Smith and Alasdair McCaig will be back behind the wheel. That should serve as ideal preparation for the team’s next British GT Championship outing, which takes place at the same circuit just one week later.
British GT Championship standings (top six):
1. Ecurie Ecosse… 52 points
2. Beechdean AMR… 45
3. Oman Racing Team… 32.5
4. AF Corse… 32
5. Triple 8… 29.5
6. FF Corse… 25.5