Ellis Battles for FIA GT3 European Championship Crown
Croydon's Bradley Ellis remains embroiled in the FIA GT3 European Championship title fight after taking his first pole position of the season and clinching third and another podium finish during the penultimate series round at the Dubai Autodrome on Friday 5 December. Ellis approached the final rounds third in the standings and as one of seven drivers capable of taking the title. Although after today's race the overall title is out of reach, Ellis remains in the fierce fight for second place.
Championship leaders Arnaud Peyroles and James Ruffier took penultimate round victory in Dubai and the championship crown in the process. Ellis and Mortimer's efforts, however, have ensured that the battle for the runner-up slot will continue to rage in tomorrow's final round as Ellis remains third on 41 points, equal with Matech teammates Ian Khan and Thomas Mutsch, with Thomas Accary and Pierre-Brice Mena second with 43.
Ellis immediately set the bar for the fiercely competitive final rounds by clinching his first FIA GT3 European pole position of the season for round 11, despite racing the Matech Ford GT for the first time on the Dubai circuit.
The former British GT Champion got a flying start, but Accary took the lead at turn one and, despite going straight on at turn two, didn't relinquish his position. With Ellis second after fending off the Ferrari of Nicki Cadei into turn one, the #21 Matech Ford GT pushed to catch the leading Aston Martin, chased by Peyroles in the Corvette until Cadei took third on lap three.
By lap six, Accary, Ellis and Cadei were starting to pull clear, matching each other's times lap for lap as the leading trio began to make their way through traffic. Ellis got held up the following lap which allowed Cadei to get a run on the Ford GT for second until Ellis closed once again to retake the place on lap eight.
The raging battle for second allowed Accary to pull four seconds clear, leaving Ellis to post lap after flying lap, setting a personal Dubai best lap time in the process, while contending with heavy traffic. Meanwhile Accary answered Ellis' every move, matching him lap for lap in a thrilling duel.
The leading pair both pit after the 30 minute marker and Ellis passed the reigns to Mortimer who rejoined in second behind the Aston Martin with Mena now at the wheel. Immediately getting into the fray, Mortimer pushed to catch the leader as a flying Ruffier, now in the Corvette, charged his way up to third by lap 18. Unable to defend against the mighty Corvette, Ruffier took Mortimer for second place on lap 20 and went on to take the lead four laps later.
Undeterred, Mortimer continued to set blistering times, setting personal best after personal best, in an attempt to catch the now second-placed Mena while keeping a comfortable 10 seconds clear of fellow Matech racer Mutsch. Despite a fantastic stint, nearly halving the four second gap, Mortimer took the chequered flag in third to clinch the Matech pairing's fourth podium finish of the season and six vital championship points.
"We gave it everything we could out there today but we just didn't have an answer to the Corvette's pace. It's not over yet, though, as there's everything to play for and now we will set our sights on finishing second in the championship tomorrow," said Ellis.
"We had a good race and I got a good start. The car was a little slow to come in during the early part of the race, which lost valuable time in the opening laps when I really needed to push. We perhaps went a little too conservative with the tyre pressures in a bid to help them perform throughout the race, but we will look at that for tomorrow to ensure Alex can get a good start. We were also late coming into the pits which meant I got tangled up with some defending back markers, which was a race I didn't need to get involved in. Regardless, third is a great result and now we will turn our focus to scoring vital championship points while enjoying the final race of the season."
Teammate Alex Mortimer added: "Brad and I both did a great job here today but the Corvettes just proved too strong for us. But the car is in great shape and we'll be making some adjustments that will hopefully help us to get Brad second in the championship and me third. It should be a good race."
The final round of the FIA GT3 European Championship takes place in Dubai tomorrow at 4.30pm local time. For full race results, points and further information on the FIA GT3 European Championship, visit www.fiagt3.com