STUNNING BACK-TO-FRONT PERFORMANCE HELPS ECURIE ECOSSE FINISH FIFTH AT PAUL RICARD
• 31 places gained over three hours in Blancpain Endurance Series third round
Legendary Scottish motor racing outfit Ecurie Ecosse Powered By Black Bull pulled off their most remarkable performance of the season by finishing fifth in class and 12th overall at round three of this year’s Blancpain Endurance Series at Paul Ricard last weekend (June 27/28) after a post-qualifying technical issue saw them start dead last.
With a strong result essential to their title hopes, drivers Olly Bryant, Andrew Smith and Alasdair McCaig spent Friday’s official practice sessions searching for the car’s optimum set-up. All three then each completed 15 minutes of qualifying on Saturday morning, with Bryant taking fresh tyres in the final session when the car would be on its lightest fuel load. Unfortunately the session was red flagged during his second flying lap while 0.6sec up on his previous fastest time. And with the rubber past its best when the action resumed, Ecurie Ecosse was initially forced to settle for 10th in class and 17th overall.
That was until a suspected cracked cylinder head, diagnosed after qualifying, necessitated an urgent engine change. And under championship regulations that condemned the Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3 to the back of the 43-strong grid.
With the squad’s back now firmly against the wall, Smith began that afternoon’s three-hour race like a man possessed, passing 12 cars on the opening lap alone and fighting his way into the Pro-Am top-10 and overall top-20 during the first 60 minutes. Barwell’s pit crew were just as rapid at the first tyre, fuel and driver change where McCaig climbed aboard to continue his team-mate’s good work.
The Scot’s faultless hour-long stint concluded just as darkness began to fall over Paul Ricard when another lightning stop saw Bryant head back out in no time at all. His considerable experience of competing at night helped the team make further headway over the race’s final third before coming home an impressive fifth in class and 12th overall after an astonishing team effort.
Indeed, Ecurie Ecosse were thrilled to have fought back so strongly from their unfortunate technical issues and again proved they will be serious contenders for class honours at the Blancpain Endurance Series’ blue riband event – the 24 Hours of Spa – on July 26/27 when BMW factory driver Alexander Sims joins the line-up.
Oliver Bryant: “What a stunning comeback from the entire team! It was a stellar effort from the Barwell Motorsport crew to change the engine before the start. Alasdair converted Andrew’s fantastic opening stint into a strong middle run, while I just had to push hard into the night and move the car up as many positions as possible towards the end. It was also great to have Euan Shand from Black Bull Whisky there to witness our fightback for himself. Bring on the 24 Hours of Spa!”
Andrew Smith: “It was unfortunate that we had engine issues after qualifying, although I have to admit that starting from the back was a lot of fun! The opening few laps were very busy but I made good progress through the field and was happy to hand the car over to Alasdair with us back in the game. My team-mates did a top job as usual, as did the entire Barwell crew. I can’t wait for Spa!”
Alasdair McCaig: “We had a fantastic end to a tough weekend, especially as at one point we didn’t think we’d be in the race at all. So a big thanks to BMW Motorsport for their excellent support and to the Barwell crew for working tirelessly to get the car ready in time. My team-mates did a first-class job and I really enjoyed my stint pushing as hard as I could to help move us up the order. P5 in Pro-Am after having to start from the back was a great reward for all the hard work, and I am now very much looking forward to the 24 Hours of Spa.”
Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Team Principal: “Today’s strong result was all about driver performances: Andrew’s epic opening laps set the tone before Alasdair and Olly delivered two top quality stints of their own. Indeed, all three drivers made some great passes on a circuit not ideally suited to our Z4. This weekend was perfect preparation and a confidence boost ahead of this season’s blue riband event, the 24 Hours of Spa, next month.”
Ecurie Ecosse’s preparations for the world’s most illustrious GT race should be boosted further by its trip to Spa-Francorchamps on July 11/12 for round five of this year’s British GT Championship where Marco Attard and Alexander Sims will be hoping to maintain the team’s title challenge.
Blancpain Endurance Series – Pro-Am Drivers’ Championship (after 3 of 5 races)
1. Rizzoli/Gai/Castellacci (Scuderia Villorba Ferrari 458 Italia) 46
2. Comandini/Amos (ROAL Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3) 41
3. McMillen/Strauss/Buncombe (Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3) 35
4. Danyliw/Knap/Sonvico (AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia) 27
=5. Hassid/Catsburg/ (TDS Racing BMW Z4 GT3) 26
=5. Bryant/Smith/McCaig (Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3) 26
Blancpain Endurance Series – Pro-Am Teams’ Championship (after 3 of 5 races)
1. Nissan GT Academy Team RJN 50
2. Scuderia Villorba Corse 46
3. ROAL Motorsport 41
4. TDS Racing 39
5. AF Corse 27
6. Ecurie Ecosse 26