ELLIS SEALS SEASON WITH SECOND AT SILVERSTONE
Croydon's Bradley Ellis sealed his maiden Avon Tyres British GT GTC season by scoring a sterling second place, alongside driving partner Alex Mortimer, in a dramatic two-hour endurance race for round 14 at Silverstone, Northamptonshire, on Sunday 24 September. The dynamic duo's performance secured their joint third places in the driver's championship and also helped to consolidate Team RPM's second position in the team standings.
The Team RPM pairing arrived at Silverstone safe in the knowledge they could neither loose nor gain championship position, but Mortimer and Ellis were still determined to finish the season off in style. Qualifying on Saturday afternoon, however, brought its challenges and made it clear the weekend wouldn't be going all their own way. The loss of fifth and sixth gears and a misfire meant Mortimer could only complete four-laps of his session but the number 96 Porsche 996 still managed to qualify third in class for Sunday's final race of the season.
A long overnight stint saw the fantastic Team RPM mechanics change the clutch, gearbox and crank sensor, which was damaged when a stone went into the bell housing and broke the sensor. Ellis rewarded his team's efforts by making a brilliant start from 15th overall, taking several cars for outright position, finishing lap one in 10th behind Phil Burton in the Ferrari 360 Modena, the leading GTC car.
Ellis wasted no time and glued himself to the back of Burton's Ferrari, managing to take the GTC lead down the inside at Priory. The former British Kart Champion put in an impressive performance to pull clear of his nearest rival and continued to drive turn perfect to pull out a comfortable margin to the next GTC contender. Up to eighth overall by lap 13, Ellis came across the Barwell Motorsport Aston Martins and was held up through the corners but couldn't pass for position due to the Aston Martins' straight-line speed.
An incident saw the safety car on track on lap 22, which reduced Ellis' 10-second gap. With the pit window open, both Trackspeed Porsches took the opportunity to pit but Ellis could not due to the fact that the Team RPM Porsche 996 runs a smaller 90-litre fuel tank. If Ellis had pitted at the earliest opportunity, the car would have run out of fuel a few laps from the end of the race, which would have been no way to end the season.
With the safety car still out, Ellis went into the pits on lap 25 to take on more fuel and hand over to Mortimer, but Mortimer had to wait the mandatory 90 seconds before the mechanics could change the rear tyres and release him from the garage. Unfortunately the tyre change meant Mortimer missed the opportunity to get out before the safety car, putting him one lap down overall but not in class.
Mortimer rejoined the race on lap 27 in 17th position overall and the safety car went in on lap 28, leaving Mortimer to put the hammer down and go for broke. A stunning performance saw Mortimer claw his way back into contention and up to sixth in class by lap 30, moving up to fifth by lap 35, fourth by lap 39 and on lap 46 was running third in GTC.
By lap 59, Mortimer began to make an impression on Matt Allison in the Trackspeed Porsche, with the gap just over 30-seconds. Over the remaining 20-laps Mortimer took three to four seconds per lap out of Allison in what turned out to be a thrilling end of race and end of season battle. With just over four minutes left, Mortimer made his move and took Allison on the run up to Bridge for second in class and brought the car home safely to the chequered flag and the final podium of the season.
Following the champagne spray of the podium presentation, Ellis commented: "I have had a magnificent first season in British GT, although it was disappointing not to finish the year with pole position and another win, I am more than pleased with what we have achieved this season. We did have the pace to take another victory today, if the safety car period hadn't spoilt our chances, but Alex put in a great performance to take second and the result was all the more impressive considering we were still running the 'H-pattern' gearbox.
"Now we are looking forward to moving up to GT3 next year. Alex and I are such a strong pairing; we have such a positive foundation laid from the great results this season that we can only build on that. I would like to thank my sponsors ATS and Team RPM for a fantastic season."
Team Principle, Robin Mortimer, commented: "Brad has exceeded our expectations in every department and he has driven with considerable maturity, belying his 19-years, and he has shown his ability to do the business given a competitive car. I have no doubt that the pairing, who as far as I am concerned will remain together until further notice, would run at the top of any championship in GT cars, whether it be domestic or international.
"As a team, we have a clear structure for 2007, which will see us compete again in the UK and our testing programme is starting in under six weeks. I look forward to many more years working with Brad and Alex together and thank them for all their positive results that they have achieved for the team during 2006. I would like to particularly mention the hard-working mechanics who have done a simply unbelievable job this weekend and throughout the season. A huge thank you to them all."