Legendary Scottish motor racing outfit Ecurie Ecosse backed up last week’s historic debut British GT victory at Oulton Park with an impressive Blancpain Endurance Series opener at Monza on Sunday (April 15) as drivers Andrew Smith, Ollie Millroy and Joe Twyman overcame torrential rain to bring the squad’s Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3? home 11th in their 39-strong class.
The performance was made all the more impressive by a trying start to the weekend that saw the team’s free practice running severely restricted by electrical gremlins. The result of a major ECU issue, the problem saw all three drivers heading into their 15 minute Saturday qualifying sessions with just a handful of trouble-free laps and minimal setup work completed on the Z4, which was always set to struggle with the high top-end speeds required at Monza.
Nevertheless former BMW scholarship driver Millroy, whose previous racing experience was limited to single-seater competition, recorded a highly impressive lap of 1.49.8 seconds to put the car 20th on the grid for Sunday’s three hour race, circulating less than a second shy of the sixth best overall time.
Following a night of heavy rain that would continue throughout the day conditions for the main event were extremely hazardous. To add to the challenge this would be the Ecosse drivers’ maiden run aboard their BMW Z4 in the wet, and their first on Michelin tyres.
Smith began the race, which was run single file behind the safety car for the first 35 minutes due to the level of standing water on-track. When the green flag finally fell Smith was able to sample his first taste of driving in such treacherous conditions but, with visibility minimal as the bumper field piled into the tight chicanes, caution was the name of the game.
After just five green flag laps it was already time for Smith to pit for the first driver change. Following a swift turnaround by the Barwell crew he handed over to Millroy, who went on to complete a stunning 70-minute stint in his first ever GT race. Equaling the front-runners’ pace, Millroy had stormed from P50 to 15th overall by the time he pitted to hand the Z4 over to Twyman.
Another lightning fast stop allowed the team to gain more ground ahead of the final stint and, in his first ever wet run in a modern GT car, Twyman did a sterling job, consistently setting competitive lap times and avoiding mistakes on his way to 11th in class.
Hugh McCaig, Ecurie Ecosse Team Principal: “I’m delighted that we managed to secure another strong result in such difficult conditions. We’re still learning the car but the drivers and the team at Barwell are doing an outstanding job.”
Andrew Smith, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: “Monza was a huge learning curve for me. That was my first time out in such bad conditions and starting the race behind so many cars in unbelievable spray left me feeling blind! However it will be invaluable going forward and I’m glad to have had that experience. I was pleased to bring the car back in one piece for my team-mates, who did an amazing job for the remainder of the race.”
Ollie Millroy, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: “That was my first ever GT race, my first endurance event and the first time I have driven the BMW Z4 GT3 in the rain – and I loved the lot! It was a great performance by the whole team and I really hope to be out with them again at Silverstone.”
Joe Twyman, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: “I’m delighted with our P11 finish in light of our earlier issues. I really enjoyed my stint, especially battling to keep Valentino Rossi behind towards the end. We’re on a steep learning curve with the car and continually making positive steps forward. Having Ollie on board is key to this for Andrew and I, particularly in terms of data analysis.”
Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Managing Director : “A rain soaked Monza was a real baptism of fire for us but the team and drivers coped brilliantly, demonstrating to the world that we are ready to compete at this level.”
Ecurie Ecosse’s next competitive outing sees the team head to the famous Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit for rounds three and four of the British GT Championship (18 & 19 May) with drivers Oliver Bryant and Alasdair McCaig. Round two of the Blancpain Endurance Series takes place at Silverstone on June 3.