14 August 2006: Two more wins in British GT this weekend sees Scuderia Ecosse rise back to the top of the Championship tables. The team has the same number of points as LNT but, with seven wins out of nine, Chris Niarchos and Tim Mullen are in the stronger position. The two Rockingham races turned out to be very different affairs: race one was a straightforward sprint to the flag but race two was filled with drama!
The weekend of racing got off to a great start on Saturday when Chris Niarchos blazed a trail to his first-ever British GT pole position. With Tim Mullen making it a double in the next session, the duo had a lot to smile about.
The first race got underway on Saturday afternoon with pole-man Chris Niarchos at the wheel. Chris led the field away at the lights and didn't look back once, leading all the way until he pitted to hand over to Tim Mullen, who finished the job off to take win number one of the weekend. The victory was especially sweet for Niarchos who, in addition to pole position, took the fastest lap of the race, therefore scoring a hat-trick!
Scuderia Ecosse might have taken a straightforward victory in race one but race two provided all the drama. After overnight rainfall the teams were faced with a wet warm-up session at Rockingham. The day was a lot brighter by race time and it was Tim Mullen who started for Scuderia Ecosse, from pole position.
The first part of the race went according to plan with Tim Mullen handing the Ferrari over to Chris Niarchos in the lead. The Safety Car then made an appearance and it was at the end of the caution period that the trouble began.
At the restart LNT's Luke Hines appeared to put his foot to the floor way too early which gave him the run on Niarchos into turn two. Unfortunately, instead of going for a clean pass, the Panoz driver smashed into the left side of the Ferrari then smashed into the right side later on the same lap! Chris Niarchos set off in pursuit of the bright orange Panoz and left the British driver with very little room to breathe, crossing the line just 0.3 second behind, or rather right on the rear bumper of the Panoz. As Hines' indiscretion wasn't dealt with during the race the Scuderia Ecosse team protested the results.
The Stewards upheld the team's protest and handed LNT a one-second penalty. A fraction of time but enough to hand the win back to Scuderia Ecosse! There is still a long way to go in the 2006 British GT Championship but Scuderia Ecosse is back on top and ready for the fight.
Chris Niarchos: "That was a fantastic weekend for us. I was delighted to get my first GT pole on Saturday but to then top it off with a win and fastest lap is just awesome! Sunday was interesting. I've had some fantastic battles with Luke (Hines) this year so I thought he was beyond this. He is a driver of high quality so to resort to those tactics is a real shame. It was a clear infringement of the safety car rules and he did apologise to me after the race. I'm pleased the results have been declared as they should be so Tim and I get the win and I look forward to racing Luke again at Brands Hatch."
Tim Mullen: "I'm really pleased with the results we got this weekend. We needed to get another two wins in the bag to get back on top of the points table. I'm really looking forward to the next British rounds at Brands now as we have a proper fight on our hands."
Stewart Roden, Team Principal: "I'm astounded at how far Chris has come as a driver this year. We've always been amazed at the progress he makes from one race to the next but this year has been phenomenal. He rose to the challenge at Le Mans, put in a fantastic performance at Spa, and now he's off taking pole position. There will be no stopping him now! I'm pleased the debacle with the jumped restart was brought to the right conclusion and we can now look forward to continuing the fight at Brands Hatch."