• Comeback drive nets fourth in opener ahead of second 2014 victory
• Attard and Sims storm to double pole position
A sensational performance at Spa-Francorchamps helped Ecurie Ecosse Powered By Black Bull open up a commanding lead in this season’s British GT Championship title race after Marco Attard and Alexander Sims scored their second win of the season in Belgium last weekend (July 11/12).
Victory in the second of round five’s two races, as well as fourth place in Saturday’s opening encounter, has helped Attard establish a 23.5-point advantage over Beechdean AMR’s erstwhile championship leaders Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam, with Sims now on his own in second place despite missing the previous event due to his Nurburgring 24 Hour commitments.
Having paced Friday’s free practice, it was no surprise to see the Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3 once again at the sharp end during that afternoon’s qualifying sessions. This time it was Attard’s turn to set the tone by outgunning his fellow Am drivers to the tune of 0.2sec, before Sims completed a perfect day by claiming the legendary Scottish squad’s fifth pole in eight attempts for the second of Saturday’s races.
Frustratingly, Attard’s qualifying heroics would count for little the next morning when Spa’s famously fickle weather compromised the team’s strategy. With drizzle falling in pit-lane just 30 minutes before gridding up and a championship at stake, caution was deemed the better part of valour as the BMW headed out on wet tyres. But conditions can change quickly at Spa and no sooner had the cars set off on their formation lap than Attard was on the radio requesting slicks.
That ensured he, along with many others who’d followed suit, would have to start from the pits. Attard wasn’t phased though and used his inherent pace to good effect by scything through to 11th before handing the Z4 GT3 over to Sims after half-an-hour. Needless to say the BMW factory driver was equally incisive en route to claiming a further seven places before the chequered flag fell.
With sunny skies overhead for race two, the Ecurie Ecosse BMW could take up its rightful place on pole position. Sims initially made a good start, maintaining the lead at the tight La Source hairpin and up through Eau Rouge before Wolfgang Reip’s gruntier Nissan could draft by along the Kemmel Straight.
But the Briton remained glued to the GT-R’s bumper throughout his stint, safe in the knowledge that Attard’s experience would stand him in good stead against fellow Am driver and Olympic gold medallist Chris Hoy, who would be relieving Reip.
And that’s exactly how events unfolded, although Attard could only make his move three laps from the finish after the subsequent Safety Car was withdrawn. Such was his pace that the BMW eventually took victory by a comfortable 3.5 seconds.
As well as leaving Spa with the championship lead, Attard’s pole position and race one heroics were enough to net him the Blancpain Gentleman Driver’s Trophy for the first time.
Marco Attard: “I couldn’t have been any happier after qualifying on pole for both races, but the manner in which we battled back to finish fourth and then take a well-deserved victory was fantastic. Establishing a healthy championship lead just topped off the weekend perfectly. As always I’d like to thank Barwell Motorsport and Alexander for their super efforts.”
Alexander Sims: “Our car felt good straight out of the box, which was clear to see from us topping free practice. Marco got some quality laps in and was up to speed fairly quickly. We couldn’t have asked for more in qualifying, although I do think our pace over one lap was better than what we had in race trim, both of which were quite eventful! The weather and tyre choice was pretty tricky to call in the opener, so Marco had a difficult job to do. Then on my first couple of laps I had a good battle with an Audi, Ferrari and Ginetta. Reip got me along the straight on the first lap of race two, so I held station until the driver change. Overall the team did a great job and gave me a fantastic car. All I had to do was drive it!”
Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Team Principal: “Once again both the team and drivers focused all of their energy into operating at the highest level. That’s been reflected in the results at Spa. There’s not long to go now but rest assured we will continue to push until the very end.”
The penultimate round of this year’s British GT Championship takes place at Brands Hatch on August 30/31. But before then Ecurie Ecosse will be back in Belgium on July 23-27 for the world’s greatest GT event – the 24 Hours of Spa – as part of its Blancpain Endurance Series campaign.
British GT Championship teams’ standings (after 8 of 10 races)
1. Ecurie Ecosse 130.5 points
2. Oman Racing Team 111
3. Beechdean AMR 107
4. Trackspeed 93
5. Triple 8 85.5
6. AF Corse 82
7. FF Corse 70.5
8. MP Motorsport AMR 48
9. Strata 21 44.5
10. United Autosports 36
British GT Championship drivers’ standings (after 8 of 10 races)
1. Marco Attard 130.5 points
2. Alexander Sims 111.5
3. Howard/Adam 107
4. Michael Caine/Ahmed Al Harthy 93
5. Jon Minshaw/Phil Keen 81
6. Gary Eastwood 58.5
7. Pasin Lathouras 53
8. Tom Onslow-Cole/Paul White 44.5
9. Derek Johnston/Luke Hines 38.5
10. Richard Lyons 38