Ellis & Mortimer Do the Double First Time Out at Monza
Croydon's Bradley Ellis and Alex Mortimer (Stoneleigh, Warwickshire) returned to their stylish winning ways in the FIA GT3 European Championship to take a double victory and their first wins in the premier series, in rounds three and four at Monza, Italy. The Italian GP venue marked the first time the pairing have raced together on the FIA GT3 European platform and since their 2007 Avon Tyres British GT Championship crown-clinching double win at Rockingham. Their champion form seals four consecutive wins and the best possible start to their championship campaign.
Ellis and Mortimer effortlessly settled back in to a winning groove. Unphased by his first qualifying run in the Matech Ford GT in the wet on Saturday morning, Mortimer clinched third on the grid for round three and Ellis followed to form with third for Sunday's round four.
Starting round three on new tyres on a damp track, Mortimer made a great start from the second row of the grid to defend his position into turn one, with Johan Charpilienne (FRA) in the Corvette and David Loix (BEL) in the Porsche clear away. Once settled over the opening laps, Mortimer pushed to catch the Porsche.
Meanwhile advancing from fourth was the Matech Ford GT of Ian Khan (GBR) who, due to Mortimer being held up by Loix outbraking himself, joined the fight for second. It was Khan that made a move from fourth at the Ascari bend but the Ford GT went wide at the exit and consequently collected the Porsche taking both cars out of the race and leaving Mortimer to claim second.
The safety car was called upon as a result of the incident, to clear the track on lap 11, playing into Mortimer's favour and greatly reducing Charpilienne's lead. With 37 minutes to go, the safety car pulled into the pits, which Mortimer followed in a shrewdly timed handover to Ellis.
Rejoining the race in second, Ellis harnessed the opportunity of a clear track to post consistently impressive lap times, substantially cutting into the Corvette's advantage. With Marc Sourd (FRA) at the wheel, the Corvette rejoined the fray with Ellis in its mirrors. The Croydon racer pushed relentlessly while Sourd was noticeably feeling the pressure and starting to make mistakes.
The 20-year-old was patient and waited for the Corvette to run wide at the Parabolica to allow his Ford GT to ease alongside down the pit straight, to take the lead on the inside of turn one. Although the Corvette stayed close at hand, Ellis kept his cool for the remaining 15-minutes to pull out a two second lead at the chequered flag to earn his first FIA GT3 European Championship win.
With Thomas Mutsch (GER) serving a grid penalty in the sister Matech Ford GT, Ellis made a blinding start from the front row in second for round four on Sunday, to outbrake Bruce Lorgere-Roux (FRA) into turn one. But with a wet start and the Ferrari boasting better traction, Lorgere-Roux re-took the lead on the exit and proved to have good pace in the opening laps.
While staying in contention of the Ferrari, Mutsch was making his way through the field and was soon in third, joining Ellis in the lead fight. Mutsch passed Ellis and the Matech Ford GTs pushed together to halt the Ferrari's advances. Around 15-minutes into the race, both Matech cars passed the Ferrari with Dino Lunardi (FRA) in the third-placed Dodge Viper trying to catch Ellis.
Despite the increasing pressure on a drying track, Ellis kept in control of second before heading for the pits to handover to Mortimer with 28 minutes to go. The Matech team pitstop was slick and so Mortimer was surprised to join the fight down in third with the Dodge Viper miles ahead and the sister Ford GT in the lead.
It soon materialised that both Khan in the Ford GT and Gilles Vannelet (FRA), now at the helm of the Viper, had both been handed time penalties for pitstop infringements. Safe in the knowledge of this, Mortimer drove faultlessly to stay in fighting distance of the leading pair but neither Khan nor Vannelet returned to the pits to take their penalty.
Mortimer crossed the line in third but, with Khan demoted to third and Vannelet to fifth under time penalties awarded after the race, Mortimer was handed the victory. For the second time in one weekend the Matech duo mounted the top step of the podium and celebrated their first double FIA GT3 European win.
The dynamic duo's outstanding performances sees Ellis third in the driver standings, with Mortimer in fourth and two rounds adrift after missing the season-opener at Silverstone.
Delighted with a successful weekend's work, Ellis commented: "This has been a fantastic weekend, we couldn't have asked for better, particularly as it's the first time Alex and I have raced together in the series. It's great to have our championship-winning partnership back on track and now we can look forward to the next round in Germany with four straight wins under our belts. From here, we will aim to keep on scoring points and podiums and hopefully that will help us get a shot at the championship title."