2006 BRITISH GT CHAMPIONS
NIARCHOS & MULLEN: 2006 CHAMPIONS!
Magny Cours, France -- 22 October 2006: Chris Niarchos and Tim Mullen are the winners of the 2006 British GT Championship after taking points in both of this weekend's season-closing races at Magny Cours in France. The pair took pole position for both races and fastest lap in today's race but chose to play the sensible game and fight for the Championship, rather than the individual race wins. The strategy paid off and today's result also confirms Scuderia Ecosse as the 2006 Championship-winning team.
Race one was held yesterday in appalling weather conditions. The torrential rain that began to fall just before the start of the race was the worst possible scenario for Scuderia Ecosse as the wet tyres used in the British Championship seem to suit the Panoz more than the Ferrari. All Chris and Tim could do was slither around the famously-smooth Magny Cours track, making sure they brought the car home in one piece to score vital points. LNT won the race, taking five points, but Scuderia Ecosse took four points and went into the final round with a three-point lead over LNT.
Today's race was a formality for Scuderia Ecosse, the Ferrari only needing to complete 70% of the race to take the title. The team played it safe, letting the LNT Panoz of Tom Kimber-Smith through at the start to run for the race win, leaving Chris and Tim to take it easy and take the Championship. After fighting to win 10 races this year, the team didn't want to concede the Championship by putting up an unnecessary fight for a race win.
Chris Niarchos: "How do I feel about being British GT Champion? It's actually a bit surreal and definitely hasn't sunk in yet! I'm so pleased we got the job done; we went out there to do a very level-headed, sensible job today and we achieved our goal. I want to pay tribute to the team; the guys have worked incredibly hard during what has been a very busy season for us so this is as much for them as it is for me and Tim. The guys from LNT came and congratulated us too after the race which was good of them. Healthy competition is a great thing and I'm delighted we beat them!"
Tim Mullen: "The Championship wasn't really just about this weekend. We've all worked hard all year and that gave us the comfort to come here and cruise to the finish. We've had an incredibly successful year with 10 wins and lots of pole positions and fastest laps and I want to thank the team for all their efforts, they did a fantastic job, and of course Chris, who has driven like a pro all year!"
Stewart Roden, Scuderia Ecosse Team Principal: "The guys did a great job today. It's not easy to be told to slow down! Chris has been amazing this year, especially when you consider this is only his fourth year of racing. He was up against two professionals in the LNT car and beat them fair and square so I'm very proud of him. Tim has done a fantastic job too, always professional and very calm, which is what wins Championships. This title was won before we came to Magny Cours really but we had to come and finish the job off and I'm glad we came out on top!"
HOW THEY DID IT...
The fight for the 2006 British GT Championship crown began back in April at Oulton Park. Chris and Tim started strongly, taking two victories from the two races. They moved onto Donington Park a month later for a two-hour race which they won in tricky wet conditions. They then took a break to compete in the daunting Le Mans 24 Hours, teaming up with Andrew Kirkaldy and taking a fantastic podium finish at the hardest race of them all.
The only low point of the season came at Mondello Park, just a few days after the highs of Le Mans, but the team brushed the disappointment aside and returned with two more wins at Snetterton in July. The British GT Championship returned to Rockingham in August where Chris and Tim did the double again, making it seven out of nine wins so far, and a first-time GT pole position for Chris.
At the end of August the teams arrived at Brands Hatch expecting a close weekend of racing. Chris and Tim again took both wins but this is how close the Championship had become:-
Another victory followed in the two-hour race at Silverstone in September and the scene was set for the Championship showdown at Magny Cours where Chris and Tim sealed the deal and took the Championship crown. All this whilst running a parallel campaign in the FIA GT Championship is no mean feat. The British GT Championship has provided a thrilling season of racing and the Scuderia Ecosse team are delighted to be Champions -- double Champions!