Oliver Bryant Racing

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27th July 2014

Exceptional Performance Nets Ecurie Ecosse Second At 24 Hours Of Spa

A superb performance from Ecurie Ecosse Powered By Black Bull helped the legendary Scottish squad finish second in class and seventh overall at the 90th anniversary 24 Hours of Spa last weekend (July 23-27), which helped boost their Blancpain Endurance Series Pro-Am title aspirations.

Drivers Alasdair McCaig, Andrew Smith, Oliver Bryant and Alexander Sims all played their parts in steering the #79 Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3 clear of the many serious incidents that marred this year’s edition of the world’s premier GT race en route to a remarkable result, which ranks alongside the team’s many historic achievements.

Running first and second at the six and 12-hour marks respectively also helped Ecurie Ecosse score the most points of any Pro-Am entry, moving them up to second in both the Drivers’ and Teams’ standings with just one round remaining. Finishing seventh overall out of 61 starters also ensured they were the first British squad home, top BMW in class, ahead of all works Aston Martin, Nissan and Bentley entries, and beat no less than 13 all-professional driver crews.

With Barwell completing its meticulous preparations earlier in the week, both the Z4 GT3 and Sims were on it from the word go during Thursday’s qualifying session when the BMW factory driver posted the third fastest time in Pro-Am and ninth quickest overall. That was more than enough to see the Briton make Friday’s top-20 Superpole shootout, in which a harmless spin on his second run contributed to the car lining up fifth in class and 15th overall.

Amends were soon made on Saturday though, with Sims moving up to second in Pro-Am after just 60 minutes and onto the tail of the two factory-supported, Marc VDS-run Z4 GT3s.

That would become the class lead as daylight gave way to darkness over Spa-Francorchamps where much of the opening six hours were blighted by heavy accidents and resultant Safety Car periods. While these ensured positions see-sawed depending on each car’s pit strategy, they would also play a critical role in helping the eventual class-winning #53 AF Corse Ferrari negate time lost earlier in the race.

Indeed, as the race wore on it became increasingly clear that only Ecurie Ecosse’s BMW had the staying power to match the three front-running Ferraris, headed by Scuderia Villorba Corse. But after stealing a march on the rest of the class thanks to its questionable Pro-Am driver line-up, an unscheduled stop for the leading 458 Italia put it out of contention just before three-quarters distance.

That left McCaig, Smith, Bryant and Sims back out front and half a lap clear of the chasing #53 Ferrari with around six hours remaining. The team therefore only had to match their pursuer’s pace and replicate the same number of pit-stops to claim victory.

Alas, having inherited the lead when the BMW pitted for its scheduled brake change, AF Corse kept its car out in the hope of reaching the chequered flag without doing likewise. It was a gamble that ultimately paid off, albeit one aided by the Z4 GT3 experiencing a suspected brake binding issue that hampered its chase of the Ferrari, which eventually finished just 32 seconds clear.

Nevertheless, Ecurie Ecosse’s fantastic collective performance across all 24 hours helped it move up to second in the Teams’ championship, 14 points behind Scuderia Villorba Corse. Meanwhile McCaig, Smith and Bryant are just 12 adrift of the Drivers’ championship lead with a total of 33 still up for grabs at the final event.

Alasdair McCaig: “I am absolutely thrilled with our 24 Hours of Spa performance that was made possible thanks to the entire pulling together to achieve the best possible result. As ever Barwell Motorsport did a fantastic job and provided us with a car that ran faultlessly for 24 hours. I think we can safely say that Ecurie Ecosse are now firmly back on the map.”

Andrew Smith: “We went to Spa quietly confident of a strong showing, but to finish second in the Pro-Am class and a mighty seventh overall right up there with the top factory teams is an outstanding achievement. Barwell’s preparation and support was faultless as usual, and all the drivers stuck to the agreed strategy of taking no risks. It was an absolute pleasure to share the car with my fantastic team-mates and I am over the moon that we could achieve this historic result together. We are firmly in the hunt for the Pro-Am title and I am now fully focussed on the Nurburgring’s six-hour race now.”

Oliver Bryant: “The 24 Hours of Spa is the biggest race in the world for GT cars, so to finish second in Pro-Am and seventh overall against such strong opposition was fantastic! I’m delighted we were able to reward our sponsors and supporters with such a good result. The team was outstanding with set-up, pit-stops and strategy, while the car and drivers didn’t miss a beat!”

Alexander Sims: “It was an absolutely amazing weekend and hugely enjoyable to be a part of. We were on the pace from the word go in practice and working in the right areas to be strong for the race. The car was impeccable, as you would expect from BMW, and never gave us any problems. The late-race brake concern only came about because we had to be aggressive. The race itself was pretty crazy early on and all the drivers did well to stay out of trouble. Our pace was really strong throughout, meaning we were able to score big points at every stage. There’s so much praise to dish out that it’s difficult to name everyone. The entire team did an excellent job, and to stand on the podium after a 24-hour race like that was just incredible.”

Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Team Principal: “This is a fantastic day for Ecurie Ecosse and Barwell. I was confident that we had all the ingredients to challenge for a Pro-Am podium as our preparations for the event had been extensive and meticulous. But to have achieved such a fantastic overall result, taking the factory scalps of Aston and Bentley plus so many other Pro class crews along the way, was really something very special indeed! The car, drivers, strategy and pit-stops were faultless. One of our finest moments.”

Hugh McCaig, Ecurie Ecosse Team Patron: “I am absolutely delighted with our performance at Spa. Everyone at Ecurie Ecosse and Barwell Motorsport should be congratulated for achieving second place in the Pro-Am class and seventh overall, as well as beating all of the major British manufacturers that competed there. This magnificent effort continues the team’s giant killing heritage that began in 1956 when it won Le Mans outright with predominantly amateur drivers and a lot of volunteer support. We could not have achieved this success without the assistance of BMW Motorsport and Mark Lemmer’s team at Barwell, or the support of our long-term partners Black Bull Whisky, John Clark Motor Group, SMA Vehicle Remarketing, Calais Wine Superstore, Elephant London, Cotton Tree, and Ragus.”

Euan Shand, Black Bull Whisky: “Black Bull is proud to be principal sponsor of this superlative team that continues to deliver success after success. To witness and be a part of Ecurie Ecosse during the preparation and racing at this year’s epic 24 Hours of Spa was a privilege. Roll on the Nurburgring!”

The final round of this season’s Blancpain Endurance Series takes place at the Nurburgring on September 19-21. But before then Ecurie Ecosse will be hoping to add the British GT title to its list of honours when current points leader Marco Attard and co-driver Sims contest the campaign’s final two races at Brands Hatch (August 30) and Donington Park (September 13).

Personal note from the team: A number of accidents marred this year’s 24 Hours of Spa, and none more so than that of Marcus Mahy who was airlifted to hospital following a particularly shocking crash on Saturday night. Marcus is a good friend of Ecurie Ecosse and Barwell having previously tested our car. We wish him all the best for a full and speedy recovery from his injuries.

24 Hours of Spa: Pro-Am result (top-10)
1. AF Corse / Ferrari 458 Italia / Bertolini/Cioci/Hommerson/Machiels
2. Ecurie Ecosse / BMW Z4 GT3 / McCaig/Smith/Bryant/Sims
3. AF Corse / Ferrari 458 Italia / Piccini/Lowndes/Rugolo/Wyatt
4. MP Motorsport AMR / Aston Martin Vantage / Turner/Osborne/Abra/Poole
5. Scuderia Villorba Corse / Ferrari 458 Italia / Montermini/Castellacci/Gai/Rizzoli
6. TDS Racing / BMW Z4 GT3 / Pla/Clement/Lariche/Armindo
7. Pro GT By Almeras / Porsche 997 GT3R / Lasserre/Dermont/Perera/Bonanomi
8. Sofrev ASP / Ferrari 458 Italia / Belloc/Canal/Bourret/Gibon
9. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT / Audi R8 LMS ultra / Rademecker/Bouvy/Kelders/Blancheman
10. AF Corse / Ferrari 458 Italia / Cameron/Griffin/Mortimer

Blancpain Endurance Series – Pro-Am Drivers’ Championship (after 4 of 5 races)
1. Rizzoli/Gai/Castellacci (Scuderia Villorba Ferrari 458 Italia) 77 points
2. Bryant/Smith/McCaig (Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3) 65
3. Abra/Poole/Osbourne (MP Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage) 45
4. Comandini/Amos (ROAL Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3) 41
=5. Hassid/Catsburg/ (TDS Racing BMW Z4 GT3) 39
=5. Sims (Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3) 39

Blancpain Endurance Series – Pro-Am Teams’ Championship (after 4 of 5 races)
1. Scuderia Villorba Corse 79
2. Ecurie Ecosse 65
3. TDS Racing 62
4. AF Corse 61
5. Nissan GT Academy Team RJN 56