A brilliant performance from Marco Attard & Alexander Sims helped Ecurie Ecosse to their second British GT Championship victory of the season in round six at Brands Hatch last weekend.
In doing so the pair increased their points’ lead to 34 over the chasing competitors after an exciting race in Kent. Barwell Motorsport, who prepare the team cars, also moved to the top of the Teams’ championship.
Attard and Sims’ consistency had kept them at the head of the standings since their first win of the season at Rockingham in early May but were on the pace throughout the weekend at Brands, a circuit that hasn’t traditionally suited the BMW Z4 GT3.
But having been there or thereabouts in practice Sims duly delivered the fastest time during Saturday’s Pro qualifying session to help the team set the fourth quickest combined lap.
Attard took the start of Sunday’s two-hour race fully aware of the Brands Hatch GP circuit’s reputation for generating accidents, and so it proved during an opening stint marred by incidents for several other drivers and a Safety Car period. One such clash helped him pick up a spot early on before shadowing Lee Mowle’s Triple Eight BMW, a car that would be a regular feature in front of the blue Z4 for much of the race…
And although a couple of places were lost before the end of Attard’s 50-minute run, Sims emerged from the mandatory pit-stop third courtesy of success penalties for two other cars.
The BMW factory driver then wasted no time getting down to business, smashing the GT3 lap record with his first flying effort and setting almost identical times thereafter before a second Safety Car period wiped out the near-10sec deficit to championship rival Rory Butcher.
Such was Sims’ pace that he would have likely caught the Aston Martin anyway, but it was nevertheless a welcome slice of good fortune that set up a ding-dong battle once racing resumed. Indeed, it wasn’t long before the BMW had squeezed up the inside at Graham Hill Bend before setting off in pursuit of Joe Osborne, who’d taken over from Mowle.
While the Triple Eight car’s 4.4sec advantage didn’t last long, finding a way past it around Brands Hatch’s GP loop proved a much tougher challenge, especially given Osborne’s fine display of defensive driving. Lap after lap the pair circulated bumper-to-bumper less than half-a-second apart; Sims nosing up the inside here, Osborne perfectly positioning his car there.
Then, with less than 10 minutes remaining, Sims pounced when the BMW ahead slipped wide on oil at Graham Hill Bend. It was all the Ecurie Ecosse driver needed to get a run up the inside and make the pass stick with two wheels on the grass along Cooper Straight. From there he was never troubled en route to a 3.6sec victory.
Marco Attard: “What a race! It was clean to start with but a few people out there pushed the limits just that little bit too far. Fortunately I managed to stay clear of trouble, even if that meant losing a couple of places and leaving it to Alexander. His performance was just stunning. It’s not easy to overtake here because the cars are so closely matched. It was all about racecraft in the end. Absolutely incredible; he’s a fantastic driver. Hats off to the team as well after their exploits at the 24 Hours of Spa last weekend. The car was great to drive.”
Alexander Sims: “That was the race of the season for me. There was so much ducking and diving in that first stint that Marco playing it a little bit safe was probably the right thing to do. He did a good job to keep the BMW out of trouble. Then there was a Safety Car early in my stint, which worked out for us. Maybe I’d have eventually caught Joe [Osborne] but wouldn’t have had many laps left to pass him. And my God I needed them! Racing so closely with him and Rory [Butcher] was really good fun. Fortunately I managed to capitalise on Joe slipping on oil. We had the pace this weekend, which wasn’t expected actually. The team has done a superb job and the car’s been lovely to drive all weekend. Pole in my qualifying session, fastest lap and victory is testament to that.”
Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Team Principal: “I have to say that this result is testament to the hard work and professionalism shown by our fantastic Barwell crew over the last few weeks. To prepare race-winning cars less than one week after they completed the 24 Hours of Spa is an incredible achievement. Also, once again Alexander demonstrated his class and relentless speed. Simply world class!”
Ecurie Ecosse will be hoping to take another step towards a second consecutive British GT Drivers’ title when the series moves on to Snetterton for the season’s penultimate two rounds on August 22/23