Motorsport News - Sportscar
Ecurie Ecosse back on the British GT podium at Brands Hatch
26th June 2012Legendary Scottish motor racing outfit Ecurie Ecosse emerged from a strong British GT Championship performance at Brands Hatch with valuable points after a third place overall finish in Sunday’s two-hour endurance race.
The team was enjoying its fourth outing in the UK championship with regular drivers Oliver Bryant and Alasdair McCaig at the wheel of the squad’s Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3 following the previous round a fortnight ago at Rockingham.
Saturday’s first free practice session was used to bed in new brakes and reacclimatise McCaig to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit some eight years after his one and only appearance there. By the end of second practice it was clear the team had to make further set-up improvements after its drivers, who were struggling for grip through the high-speed corners, could lap no better than two seconds shy of the benchmark pace en route to 13th quickest.
With only one qualifying session to decide the grid for Sunday’s two-hour race married to the team’s lack of previous experience with the car at Brands Hatch, hasty high-speed downforce setting changes were made prior to McCaig’s first mandatory three-lap run on used tyres. An immediate 1.7secs improvement over the Scot’s previous personal best time followed before he handed over to Bryant. Shod with new tyres the BMW improved again, setting a best time of 1m26.4s that proved good enough for 12th, albeit just 0.2sec down on fourth and under half a second off pole position in what was once again an extremely competitive British GT qualifying session. Indeed, a faster but ultimately aborted lap due to traffic in the final sector clearly demonstrated Bryant had the pace for a potential front-row qualifying slot.
Come Sunday, McCaig enjoyed an excellent opening stint by successfully navigating two safety car periods and a particularly forceful block from the Preci-Spark Mercedes to surge up to fifth by the time he stopped soon after the pit window had opened. A typically faultless performance from the Barwell crew saw new tyres, fuel and driver installed in no time at all and it wasn’t long before Bryant was consistently setting the fastest lap times on-track.
Such was his pace that the Ecurie Ecosse BMW had climbed up to second with 50 minutes remaining and soon after, a 6secs gap to the leading RJN Nissan had been reduced to just 1.7. A sprinkling of rain as well as the ebb-and-flow of lapped traffic saw the gap fluctuate before stabilising just under the 2secs mark.
But it wasn’t long before Bryant’s attention would switch to his mirrors as the rapidly advancing Beechdean Aston Martin of Jonny Adam – lapping some 1.5secs faster than anyone else – loomed into view. Once caught Bryant defended well and looked set to hold his position when, on approach to Paddock Hill Bend with only two laps left, a backmarker blocked his line and allowed Adam to slip around the outside. With the chequered flag imminent, the Ecurie Ecosse BMW would be forced to settle for third but just 2secs down on the top two whose photo finish went the Nissan’s way.
Despite the late drama, the team was delighted with its second podium finish of the season and a strong points haul that helps them climb up to fourth in the British GT Championship standings.
Hugh McCaig, Ecurie Ecosse Team Principal: “Once again our qualifying pace was as close to the competition as it’s been so far this year, while both drivers performed extremely well in the race by staying out of trouble and making no mistakes in challenging conditions. We’ve made some great progress with the car’s set-up and we’re continuing to learn race by race.”
Alasdair McCaig, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: “A strong podium finish was just what we required at this stage in the championship. My stint was fraught with accidents and safety car periods but I managed to work my way up to fifth by the driver change. As usual the Barwell crew made a flawless pit-stop and Ollie put in a monumental stint to bring us home third.”
Oliver Bryant, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: “It was fantastic to be back on the podium. Alasdair brought the car through the order to fifth before I took over and pushed as hard as possible on new tyres. Passing the Audi on my second lap was crucial as I could then push on and catch the Nissan. When the rain began to fall the Nissan managed to increase its advantage in sector two but as the track dried I closed back in. With the Aston catching fast I pushed as hard as possible on my fading tyres but got boxed in behind a GT4 Mazda on the run into Paddock Hill Bend, which allowed Jonny Adam to get by. It was disappointing not to take the win but still a great result for the team and a good haul of points for our championship challenge.”
Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Team Principal: “We have shown that we have all the ingredients in place with the BMW Z4 to win races in British GT and had we been allowed to maximize this potential in qualifying then we would very likely have won at Brands. We are all very highly motivated for the second half of the season and our pursuit of the British GT crown.”
Ecurie Ecosse's attention now switches to the upcoming Blancpain Endurance Series 3-hour race at Paul Ricard (June 30 – July 1) before, less than a week later, travelling to Snetterton (July 4/5) for round five of the British GT Championship..
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