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AGONISING END TO ECURIE ECOSSE’S BRITISH GT DRIVERS’ TITLE HOPES AT DONINGTON

Ecurie Ecosse Powered By Black Bull missed out on winning back-to-back Avon Tyres British GT Championship Drivers’ titles at Donington Park on Sunday (September 13) after Marco Attard and Alexander Sims’ BMW was eliminated from the two-hour season finale by a GT4 entry.DSC_1164

However, there was still some joy to be taken from helping Barwell Motorsport, who run the legendary Scottish squad’s Z4 GT3 alongside Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen’s similar Demon Tweeks entry, win the coveted Teams’ crown.

Attard and Sims headed into the four-way championship decider two points clear at the top of the standings aware that finishing ahead of Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam would all-but guarantee them the crown. Attard was also aiming to become the first driver in British GT history to retain the premier class title, while Sims harboured hopes of winning this year’s Sunoco Challenge.

Their chances received a boost on Saturday when Sims’ fastest time in the Pro session helped the BMW factory driver and Attard qualify fifth. That put the duo within striking distance of Beechdean’s Aston Martin, which would have to serve an additional 20-second success penalty during its mandatory pit-stop.

Hopes were raised further at the start of Sunday’s race when Attard’s fast getaway helped him vault up to third ahead of Howard. The opening laps continued to run smoothly until Ecurie Ecosse’s first piece of ill fortune struck after 15 minutes when a lunge from Derek Johnston’s Aston Martin resulted in the BMW being spun around at Goddards.

Damage was fortunately minimal, although Attard tumbling down to 13th meant the team would be in for an anxious afternoon if he and Sims were to score enough points to claim the title. For a while they looked more than capable of doing so thanks to Attard remaining within 10 seconds of Howard, which would have been sufficient to put Sims ahead of the Beechdean Aston following the pit-stops.

That they didn’t have a chance to find out owed much to Jamie Chadwick’s GT4-entered Beechdean Aston Martin, which collided with Attard at The Loop while being lapped. The full extent of the resulting broken steering arm wasn’t apparent until Goddards where the BMW carried straight on into the unprotected barriers and retirement.

The following 90 minutes were spent watching and waiting as Howard and then Adam continued to circulate. But with only ninth place or better required to snatch the championship the chances of either slipping up were slim, and so it proved.

Indeed, fifth place for the Aston Martin ultimately saw Ecurie Ecosse finish second in the standings by 13 points. However, the squad can still be proud of their season-long efforts that have included two wins, two further podium finishes, two pole positions and two fastest race laps. Their 143.5 points also went a considerable way towards Barwell Motorsport claiming the British GT Teams’ title.

Marco Attard: “I made a great start and was up to third. Textbook stuff! Then Derek Johnston tried an impossible move at Goddards, which spun me around. I enjoyed a decent scrap with Steve Tandy afterwards and was making good progress until I came across the GT4 traffic that included Jamie Chadwick. She’s normally very good and respectful but obviously didn’t see the blue flags or my lights flashing. I was down the inside into The Loop but she turned in anyway. I’ve overtaken her so many times this year and we’ve never had a problem. I think she’s done incredibly well winning the GT4 title this season but I expected a bit more at this level and especially here at the deciding round. I managed to get the car out of the tyres but it wouldn’t stop when I got to Goddards and that was that. So yes, I’m very disappointed to lose the title in such circumstances.”

Alexander Sims: “I guess Jamie didn’t see Marco but, even so, I’m gutted. I can’t believe he got spun out of third before that but he recovered well and time-wise we were still on to beat Beechdean with their success penalty. I really thought we’d recovered the situation and everything was under control. I just didn’t see that happening. Fair play to Andrew and Jonny, though, who have been great competitors all year; I’ve really enjoyed racing against them. In the end we didn’t have a big enough points buffer coming into this weekend, but at least the silver lining was helping Barwell to win the Teams’ Championship. Everyone’s been spot-on all year and we’ve shared a lot of highlights together, which we shouldn’t forget. Obviously the high points at Brands and Rockingham stand out but there was also places like Oulton where we got more out of it than perhaps we should have done given the circumstances. We can be proud of what we’ve achieved; second is no mean feat in such a competitive championship.”

Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Team Principal: “Obviously we’re delighted with the Teams’ Championship but to lose the Drivers’ after being taken out by Beechdean’s GT4 car is very disappointing. Marco made a brilliant start but was put in that position by what I consider to be an overly strong move from Johnston. He knew the score in terms of the championship. But at least we still had a chance to claw back the lost ground until the second incident. I don’t think it was intentional but the facts are Jamie took out the GT3 championship leader. We’ve been in control for most of the season and, although Snetterton was a blip, I feel like we were on course to get the job done here. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”

Ecurie Ecosse will be hoping to finish 2015 on a high note during the final round of this year’s Blancpain Endurance Series at the Nurburgring next weekend (September 19/20) when Alasdair McCaig, Devon Modell and Oliver Bryant will be back behind the wheel.

Source. Ecurie Ecosse/Photo. John Patterson

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