Legendary Scottish motor racing outfit Ecurie Ecosse backed up their strong British GT podium at Oulton Park with an impressive European Le Mans Series opener at Silverstone on Saturday (13 April) when drivers Ollie Millroy, Andrew Smith and Alasdair McCaig overcame torrential rain to win the GTC class and bring the squad’s Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3 home an impressive 10th overall.
With series rules dictating that the driver setting the fastest time during the 20-minute qualifying run must start the 3-hour race, it was decided that Smith would tackle the session so as to allow BMW Scholarship driver Millroy to complete the crucial final two stints. Following a night of rain the circuit was wet early on Saturday morning, but by the time qualifying came the track was almost completely dry.
On Smith’s first ever new-tyre run he set a strong pace with a quickest lap of 2m03.737s leaving the Ecurie Ecosse BMW second in the GTC Class, 0.25s shy of pole and in the midst of the much quicker GTE pack.
Smith started the race on slick tyres but with rain falling during the green flag lap conditions were extremely slippery. An on-track incident caused a safety car on lap two while the rain was becoming heavier, though series regulations stipulate that drivers cannot pit during the first three laps of a caution period.
Smith made the call to stop for wet tyres immediately after the restart while the class-leading Audi stayed out. After a lightning-quick turnaround from the Barwell crew Smith was able to set a strong pace on fresh Michelins, while the GTC pole-sitting Audi driven by Porsche Supercup race-winner Kuba Giermaziak eventually emerged from its stop a lap down on the Ecurie Ecosse BMW.
Following a swift changeover Smith handed the BMW to McCaig, who went on to complete a superb stint in treacherous conditions as standing water started to collect across the circuit.
Despite contact from an optimistic prototype at Abbey corner on his opening lap, the Scot consistently set strong lap times to maintain the team’s class-leading position.
As conditions continued to worsen another safety car was deployed and McCaig pitted once the window opened to hand over to Pro driver Millroy.
With the heavens remaining open track conditions were deteriorating quickly, leaving a number of competitors unable to maintain control behind the safety car.
Millroy did an exceptional job keeping the BMW on the island without incident after the team was given permission to increase its average speed to catch the pack.
Sadly the race only continued to 75% distance before the red flags appeared, denying Millroy the opportunity to show his exceptional wet weather pace which could undoubtedly have pushed the team considerably further up the overall classification.
Nevertheless, Ecurie Ecosse claimed maximum points with a class win and top-10 overall finish, a superb start to the team’s European Le Mans Series campaign.
Hugh McCaig, Ecurie Ecosse Team Principal: "Our inaugural ELMS race was certainly a baptism! The conditions during practice and the race were changeable and unpredictable, but the whole team adopted a sensible driving approach.
This, coupled with inspired tactics by Adam Hardy, gave us a brilliant class victory and 10th overall, a superb effort by the whole crew."
Andrew Smith, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: "We came to Silverstone to win the GTC class and that’s exactly what we did. The Barwell crew did a fantastic job as ever. I had the best of the weather and certainly the easiest stint, while Alasdair did an amazing job keeping the car on the circuit in horrific conditions.
I’m gutted for Ollie as for a second race running he was only able to drive behind the safety car, but we bagged maximum points and I’m now very much looking forward to Imola."
Alasdair McCaig, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: "My stint was certainly a game of survival due to the treacherous conditions. The team did a great job as ever and our strategy was spot on. This was a fantastic way to start our ELMS campaign and I am looking forward to getting back in the car at the Red Bull Ring."
Ollie Millroy, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: "This is a fantastic result for the team and a great start to the season. Of course, none of us want to finish a race behind the safety car, but the conditions were too dangerous to continue.
It was difficult to even keep the car in a straight line! However, we made the most of the conditions and came away with lots of momentum to carry through to Imola."
Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Team Principal: “We set out to win our home race at Silverstone and bank maximum points towards our Le Mans Series title campaign and, thanks to a faultless performance from the drivers, pit stop crew and engineers we were able to do so in style."
Ecurie Ecosse’s next competitive outing sees the team head to Rockingham for round three of the British GT Championship (5 May) with drivers Oliver Bryant and Marco Attard.
Round two of the European Le Mans Series takes place at Imola on 18 May where Millroy, Smith and Joe Twyman will share driving duties.