Ellis Victory Showcases Ford GT in Style Croydon's Bradley Ellis demonstrated exactly what the Ford GT can do by taking victory in round eight of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, which followed second in round seven at...
Ellis Victory Showcases Ford GT in Style
Croydon's Bradley Ellis demonstrated exactly what the Ford GT can do by taking victory in round eight of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, which followed second in round seven at Snetterton, Norfolk, on 7&8 June. With team mate Alex Mortimer, the reigning Avon Tyres British GT Champions returned to the premier series in a one-off appearance to showcase the Ford GT on its championship debut.
Fresh from the pairing's first double FIA GT3 European win at Monza, the Matech Ford GT conducted its British GT debut in style from Friday and Saturday practice with Ellis and Mortimer topping the timesheets on both occasions in wet conditions. The rain, in fact, would not cease until Sunday but the weather didn't stop Mortimer from qualifying fastest in the first session, with 1:18.846, and Ellis claiming pole in the second with 1:17.968.
With the rain still pouring late on Saturday afternoon, the lights went green for round seven with Mortimer at the wheel. An excellent start ensured he retained the lead from Riches Corner, which he would not relinquish until the pitstops when the Matech Ford GT would be obliged to complete a 30-second penalty on top of the standard 45-second pitstop.
The Ford GT's only chance of staying in contention relied on Mortimer pulling out a sufficient margin before the pit window opened without a safety car period. With Jeremy Metcalfe chasing in second, Mortimer set the fastest lap and stretched the Ford GT's lead to over ten seconds by the end of lap 12 but his hard work proved in vane when a safety car period was triggered the following lap immediately demolishing his advantage.
Three laps later, and still under the safety car, the pit window opened and the majority of the field dived for the pits, including Mortimer. With the 75-second pitstop and penalty completed, Ellis took the reins and joined the fray in 14th place but on a green flag lap.
Ellis immediately set about his hefty task and settled in behind Adam Jones and Allan Simonsen. Running quickest on lap 25 he jumped from 12th to 10th at the Esses and then took advantage of the squabbling Jones and Simonsen, again at the Esses, on lap 27 to lie eighth.
The soon-to-be 21-year-old was on a charge and dispatched Oliver Bryant and Anthony Reid the following lap for sixth. Next in line was fifth-placed James Sutton and Ellis managed to pass the Ferrari into Riches on lap 31 before closing on Adam Wilcox. A sweeping move alongside on the Revett Straight secured fifth under breaking into the Esses on lap 33.
With Jonathan Cocker next in his sights, Ellis closed on the pit straight to take the Lamborghini and fourth into Riches the following lap. With less than 10-minutes remaining second-placed Jon Barnes was 13.7 seconds ahead in the Dodge Viper and leader Luke Hines 16 seconds up the track. Ellis carved into Barnes' advantage at a rate of over two seconds a lap when the Viper took Hines for the lead on lap 37. With the Ferrari now Ellis' target eight seconds ahead, the Croydon star set the fastest lap of the race on lap 38. Just seven tenths adrift at the end of lap 40, Ellis moved alongside on the Revett Straight and took second into the Esses.
The leading Viper completed lap 41 over two seconds ahead with just one lap remaining. A blistering lap saw Ellis close on Barnes as the leading pair approached Coram to sit on the Viper's tail at Russell Bend but the Viper had the run to the line. Ellis took the chequered flag just sixth tenths behind while his storm from 14th to second testified his British champion and FIA GT3 European driver status.
In stark contrast to Saturday's downpours, a hot and sunny day greeted round eight on Sunday. A smooth start from pole ensured Ellis took the lead at Riches. Gradually pulling away from Hines' Ferrari, the 20-year-old set the fastest lap of the race and a new Snetterton GT3 lap record on lap six while increasing his lead to six seconds.
With a sense of deja vu, as Ellis pulled out a 10-second advantage the safety car was called out on lap nine, undoing the British GT champion's hard work and closing up the field. The safety car, however, joined in front of Hines and not the lead car, causing a prolonged period while the field was released to circulate and close up again behind Ellis.
Finally, racing recommenced on lap 14 and a slick re-start ensured that Ellis remained unchallenged to steadily build a margin once again, pulling out nearly one second per lap before the pit window opened on lap 18. Experiencing his first dry, hot, race in the Ford GT, Ellis continued to deliver and extended his lead to 10.5 seconds by the 30-minute marker. In an astounding effort to build as much of a pitstop cushion as possible, Ellis failed to put a wheel wrong and by the time he pitted on lap 28 had achieved a 17-second buffer.
Thanks to Ellis' monumental effort, Mortimer joined the race following the mandatory pitstop and time penalty in second behind Hector Lester who had taken over from Simonsen in the Ferrari. On lap 30 a nine second gap separated the two front cars which Mortimer chipped away at until he made a move for the lead under braking at the Esses on lap 34.
The Viper of James Gornall took the Ferrari on lap 35 leaving a four second gap to separate first and second. Although Gornall closed to within just under two seconds in heavy traffic, the Ford GT remained unthreatened to cross the line with a three second margin, securing Ellis and Mortimer's fifth win in six races.
Delighted with the Ford GT's British GT debut, Ellis commented: "It's been a great weekend and we have learnt a lot of valuable things here at Snetterton which we can carry into the FIA GT3 European Championship. We've done the Ford GT justice on home soil and couldn't have done any more in the circumstances. We experienced some high-speed understeer in Sunday's race and I drove each lap as if it was qualifying to try and pull out as much of a gap as possible. But to come back to this ultra-competitive championship as the reigning champions has been fantastic, if only for one race."
Martin Bartek, Matech Team Principal, added: "We've had an excellent weekend, we really couldn't have hoped for any better than to finish on the podium and to clinch our first British GT win on the Ford GT's debut. If it hadn't been for the safety car on Saturday, we would have taken the round seven victory also, but regardless I am very happy with the results. I'd like to thank Team RPM for all the preparation and for putting on such an excellent showcase. Equally, I could not ask for two better drivers to represent the Ford GT on its British GT debut. Both Brad and Alex have done an excellent job and I couldn't imagine a better pairing for the car."
With their one-off British GT appearance complete, Ellis and Mortimer will return to the FIA GT3 European Championship for rounds five and six at Oschersleben, Germany, on 6 July.