• Team overcomes 20-second success penalty
Ecurie Ecosse Powered By Black Bull and Marco Attard took a step closer to clinching the British GT Championship Drivers’ crown thanks to a hard-earned fourth place finish at the penultimate round of the season at Brands Hatch last weekend (August 30/31). While two of the four title protagonists fell by the wayside at the former grand prix venue, the legendary Scottish squad maintained its 28.5-point lead over Oman Racing Team’s Michael Caine and Ahmed Al Harthy who must now win the Donington Park finale to have any chance of denying Attard. Co-driver Alexander Sims still lies second overall despite missing a round.
It transpired in Saturday’s qualifying session that the Brands Hatch layout seemed to favour Ecurie Ecosse’s Aston Martin and Porsche championship rivals. Indeed, the combined efforts of Attard and Sims could manage no better than eighth – their lowest grid slot of the year but still fastest of the BMW Z4 GT3 contingent – for the start of Sunday’s two-hour race.
To make matters worse, the team would have to remain stationary for an additional 20 seconds during its mandatory pit-stop as a handicap for winning last time out at Spa-Francorchamps.
Clearly a response was required, and Attard duly delivered it at the start of Sunday’s race by immediately picking up two positions, one of which came at the expense of Beechdean AMR title rival Andrew Howard. That became fifth when another factory Aston was sidelined soon after, before Attard began gapping his pursuers in an effort to negate the impending 20-second penalty.
But with 40 minutes gone all of his hard work and advantage was cancelled out by the intervention of two Safety Cars in quick succession. And by the time racing resumed, Attard had only one lap remaining before handing over to Sims.
Having slipped to 12th, albeit with a few cars ahead still to make their stops, it didn’t take long for the BMW factory driver to warm to the task at hand. Indeed, his first flying lap was the fastest of the race as he embarked upon another trademark charge through the field.
After making short work of Ryan Ratcliffe’s Triple 8 BMW and WTCC ace Alex MacDowall’s works Aston Martin, Sims – now seventh after everyone had pitted – needed just 10 more laps before bridging the significant deficit to Tom Onslow-Cole, who was stuck behind Matt Griffin’s Ferrari. While he was able to quickly see off the BTCC race winner, the AF Corse 458 Italia proved a more difficult nut to crack.
Understandably, with one of Ecurie Ecosse’s main championship rivals having slipped a lap down, the team was favouring a cautious approach in order to secure solid points. In the end their patience paid off when Griffin’s slight mistake at Dingle Dell was all the opportunity Sims required to set up a classic switch-back manoeuvre on the exit of Clearways.
And fifth ultimately became fourth late in the race when the leading Trackspeed Porsche suffered an unfortunate puncture.
All of that means Attard will be crowned champion at Donington Park on September 13/14 if he and Sims finish inside the top-six, regardless of what Caine and Al Harthy can muster. Meanwhile Ecurie Ecosse are still in the Teams’ title reckoning, albeit 12 points and a car short of leaders Oman Racing Team.
Marco Attard: “The highs and lows of motor racing, eh?! After a tough time in Saturday’s qualifying session, Sunday could not have played out better. My stint was tough with all the GT4 traffic while trying to keep up with the leaders. Alexander drove an incredible race and again proved what a great asset he is to the team, who as usual did a fantastic job. It was the 100% effort from everyone that secured us this fourth place. A wonderful weekend and, needless to say, I’m really looking forward to Donington.”
Alexander Sims: “What an eventful weekend! It was a classic example of why you should never give up. Our pace wasn't quite as good as we wanted but my God we fought hard! Marco put in a strong first stint to bring us up the order and give me as good a chance as possible. The Safety Car coming out just before the pit window made things really difficult as we had the extra success penalty to serve at the pit-stop. I pushed as much as I could and had some great battles on my way to fourth by the end of the race. I’m so proud of everyone at Ecurie Ecosse and Barwell for their attitude throughout what could have been a difficult weekend. The bonus of enjoying some great racing with Alex MacDowall and Matt Griffin was the icing on the cake for me.”
Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Team Principal: “Fourth is the perfect result for us considering the 20-second success penalty. It also means we will compete penalty-free at the final race. Hopefully we can keep pushing and round off the season with another win and, fingers crossed, the title.”
British GT Championship Drivers’ standings (after 9 of 10 races)
1. Marco Attard / Ecurie Ecosse / 148.5 points
2. Alexander Sims / Ecurie Ecosse / 129.5
3. Michael Caine/Ahmed Al Harthy / Oman Racing Team / 120
4. Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam / Beechdean AMR / 98
5. Jon Minshaw/Phil Keen / Trackspeed / 84
6. Pasin Lathouras / AF Corse / 68
7. Gary Eastwood / FF Corse / 64.5
8. Paul White/Tom Onslow-Cole / Strata 21 / 53.5
9. Rory Butcher / Oman Racing Team / 40.5
10. Adam Carroll / FF Corse / 39
British GT Championship Teams’ standings (after 9 of 10 races)
1. Oman Racing Team / 160.5 points
2. Ecurie Ecosse / 148.5
3. Trackspeed / 133.5
4. Beechdean AMR / 107
5. AF Corse / 97
6. Triple 8 / 87
7. FF Corse / 76.5
8. Strata 21 / 53.5
9. MP Motorsport AMR / 48
10. PGF – Kinfaun AMR / 46
Blancpain Gentleman Driver Trophy (Top 10)
1. Marco Attard / 163.5 points
2. Andrew Howard / 133.5
3. Jon Minshaw / 95
4. Gary Eastwood / 82.5
5. Paul White / 70
6. Phil Dryburgh / 63
7. Derek Johnston / 60.5
8. Mark Poole / 52
9. Jeff Smith / 50
10. Lee Mowle / 46