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Category: Blancpain Endurance Series

Ahmad Al Harthy - NBO Racing TeamPaul Ricard HTTT in the south of France will host round three of the Blancpain Endurance Series this coming weekend, 29th/30th June, where ARC Bratislava-NBO Racing Team driver Ahmad Al Harthy is aiming to continue his recent winning momentum.

Having won the GTR Class during the previous Blancpain event at Silverstone in the UK, partnering Slovakia’s Miro Konôpka, Ahmad also claimed a maiden outright victory in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship just over a week ago so the 31-year-old’s confidence is currently sky high.

“I really am looking forward to my first visit to Paul Ricard, especially off the back of such a great result at Silverstone last time out in Blancpain and also my win in British GT”, said the Omani, “It’s another new challenge, a new adventure for the NBO Racing Team, but I’m confident we can push for another good finish at the weekend – I really want to try and keep the winning momentum!”

Beginning his debut Blancpain campaign with eighth in class at Monza in Italy back in April, having been on course for a potential victory until gearbox problems arose, Ahmad and endurance racing veteran Konôpka starred at Silverstone during round two with an outstanding performance.

Taking a double stint in the testing three-hour encounter, meaning roughly two hours behind the wheel of the National Bank of Oman, Nawras, Oman Ministry of Tourism and Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs-liveried Porsche 997 GT3R, Ahmad was in tremendous form.

Round three at Paul Ricard, which is situated close to Le Castellet near Marseille, is expected to once again feature a huge grid of around 60 cars from across Europe with Ferrari, McLaren, BMW, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Lamborghini and, of course, Porsche all represented.

In terms of the championship table ahead of the weekend’s action, the ARC Bratislava-NBO Racing Team is second in the GTR Class standings on 31 points. In the GTR driver championship, Ahmad and Konopka are also in second place on 29 points – just eight shy of the class lead.

“It’s been a fantastic season so far, I’m getting much stronger and more adjusted to the demands of endurance racing each time we’re on track and I’m really delighted with the start we’ve had”, added Ahmad, “It’s going to be a very tough race at Paul Ricard, incredibly challenging as Blancpain always is, but we’re confident of a strong weekend and aiming to try and challenge for the GTR win again.”

Following free practice at Paul Ricard on Saturday, 29th June, pre-qualifying will take place at 15.40 (local time). The all-important final qualifying session will be held at 10.25 (local time) on Sunday, 30th June, with the three hour race scheduled to commence at 15.00 (local time). Live streaming of round three will be available online at www.blancpain-endurance-series.com/pages/live

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Ecurie EcosseEcurie Ecosse brought the curtain down on their maiden Blancpain Endurance Series campaign with another competitive display at Spanish circuit Navarra last weekend (13/14 October) despite pro driver Ollie Millroy being restricted to just four racing laps after heavy rain washed out the latter stages of the three-hour contest.

The Scottish squad fielded Blancpain regulars Millroy, Andrew Smith and Joe Twyman aboard their Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3 hoping to build on a strong run to 10th in the Pro-Am class during last month’s Nurburgring event. It would be no easy task however, with the tight and twisty nature of the 3.9km Circuito de Navarra playing to the strengths of their chief rivals.

Saturday’s qualifying session was a typically close-fought affair that saw Ecosse looking to extract the maximum from their 2011-spec Z4. Millroy’s lap time suggested that he had done exactly that, the youngster circulating just one second shy of the 2012-spec Z4 fielded by overall title contenders Marc VDS Racing. That left both the team and BMW Motorsport satisfied and ensured a mid-grid slot of 14th in class and 26th overall.

Come race day the Scottish outfit maintained its tried and tested strategy of deploying Smith and Twyman for the opening stages, during which the pairing have traditionally pushed the BMW forward, before tasking Millroy with going on the offensive and gaining several positions during the final hour.

Smith took the start and produced a fast and consistent stint, during which he maintained a competitive pace to keep the team’s plan well on target. Following just over an hour aboard the car he ducked into the pits to hand over to Twyman in 25th overall.

Joe took no time settling into a good rhythm, displaying impressive pace and quickly nabbing a position. With dark skies overhead soon producing heavy rain the team elected to leave Twyman on-track longer than planned so as to combine their scheduled re-fuelling stop with a switch to treaded Michelin rubber.

This looked set to pay high dividends for the Ecosse squad as, with the track becoming wetter, many of their rivals lost time slithering around on slicks. Unfortunately, the safety car was deployed shortly after Millroy took the wheel to begin his charge, the youngster subsequently spending seven laps under neutralised conditions.

Worse still, the Ecurie Ecosse BMW was queued behind a Ferrari that had remained on slick tyres and was now struggling to keep pace with the safety car. With no overtaking allowed Millroy was forced to crawl around behind the slick-shod machine when he should have been snapping at the heels of the front-running pack. To compound their frustration, the overall race leader soon pitted and was able to re-join ahead of the Ecosse car, costing Millroy a lap he would have regained were it not for the slow-running Ferrari.

When racing resumed Millroy wasted no time in making up lost ground, dispatching a number of cars to climb to P11 in class and 21st overall. But luck would again fall against the Ecosse squad as the rain became so heavy as to enforce a second safety car period that would last until the race’s conclusion. The team’s finishing position on the cusp of the class top-10 was impressive, but they were left in no doubt that better-still was possible had luck fallen their way.

Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Team Principal: “I’m delighted with our first season running the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 and thrilled by the fantastic support we’ve received from BMW Motorsport and all of our sponsors. The car and driver package has been competitive at every race this season and the Barwell pit crew have been faultless. With new cars now on the way 2013 can’t come soon enough.”

Joe Twyman, Ecurie Ecosse driver: “Despite the result not really reflecting our pace this weekend I am extremely pleased to have finished the year on such a high. I would like to thank the whole Barwell team for their efforts as they have provided faultless support throughout the year. We will be working hard over the winter to put together a programme for Blancpain in 2013.”

Andrew Smith, Ecurie Ecosse driver: “We did everything we could at Navarra but the safety car situation prevented us from taking a top result. I really enjoyed my stint: the start was mayhem but very exciting. As always it was a pleasure to drive with Ollie and Joe and we’re now working hard on next year.”

Ollie Millroy, Ecurie Ecosse driver: “It was a shame that the final 50 minutes of my stint were spent behind the safety car as I felt we could have challenged for a Pro-Am podium. However, we have to accept that this is racing and all in all it was another fantastic weekend for both myself and the team. I am really looking forward to working on my plans for 2013.”

Photo by Brecht Deranq.

Scuderia VittoriaLeading Avon Tyres British GT Championship team Scuderia Vittoria are to compete in the Final round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Navarra this weekend (13/14 October), with Jody Fannin, David McDonald and Danny Candia behind the wheel of the team’s Ferrari 458 machinery.

Fannin, who was recently crowned as British GT4 Champion after a thrilling campaign in his Ginetta G50 this year, is relishing opportunity to step up onto such an elite stage of GT3 racing this weekend.

“I’m so excited to be joining Scuderia Vittoria, it’s absolutely brilliant.” said Fannin. “I’ve known the guys at Scuderia Vittoria since my Ginetta Junior days, so it’s exciting to be working with them in the Blancpain Endurance Series this weekend.”

“I’ve been given a fantastic opportunity with the team, competing in the biggest GT series in Europe, where the talent is amazing. So far we have only competed in national championships and it’s my third year of racing, so I’m looking forward to stepping up to the pinnacle of GT3.”

McDonald, a former single-seater ace who has already competed at the Silverstone round of the six race calendar for the Scuderia Vittoria, is delighted to be back out with the team ahead of their trip to the Spanish circuit this weekend.

“We’re delighted to have confirmed a deal to compete with Scuderia Vittoria this weekend,” said McDonald. “I’m really excited about getting back into the Ferrari 458 and I’m confident that we can have a good run this weekend.”

“The Blancpain Endurance Series is a very high standard of racing with an exciting grid, and despite having never previously visited Navarra, I’m sure that we can be on the pace with our line-up.”

Former British Formula Three and Indy Lights racer, Candia, will conclude the exciting line-up for the 2011 British GT title contenders, and after testing at Donington Park last week, he will be aiming to impress this weekend.

“I’ve been trying to form a relationship with Scuderia Vittoria for the past two years, so I’m delighted to have the opportunity to get out on track with them this weekend,” explained Candia. “Scuderia Vittoria are a great team and I’m really looking forward to racing alongside David and Jody who are both exciting young talents.”

For more updates on Scuderia Vittoria please like their Facebook page, or alternatively you can follow @ScudVittoria on Twitter.

PPhoto by Avon Tyres British GT Championship.

Audi R8Mid-September brought with it the fifth round of the Blancpain Endurance championship, which was held over last weekend on the famous 5.1 kilometre Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit; home of the German Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Former British Formula Renault Champion Adam Christodoulou had been invited to join the 2011 Britcar championship winning team ‘GT3 Racing’ for the weekend, and for the first time he was swapping the bright tangerine of a McLaren MP4-12C for a darker beast; a matt black Audi R8 LMS GT3.

Christodoulou was to partner up with drivers Craig Wilkins and Peter Belshaw, replacing regular third teammate Aaron Scott who was attending to family commitments.

To some degree it was a case of being thrown in at the deep end, with Christodoulou being unfamiliar with the new car and setup, and both Belshaw and Wilkins with no experience on the Nürburgring before. With limited track time, Saturday testing and qualifying on Sunday morning would be their only preparation for the 3 hour race.

The pace in testing was reasonable on old tyres, and gave some confidence heading into qualifying.

The car made gains on the testing time by a good margin, lapping the 5.1km track in 1:59.053 and averaging a speed of 155.67kph. However, this was only enough to secure a midfield result of 31st place, and a five place penalty for a rule infringement during testing dropped the team back into 36th overall (25th in class)

Belshaw was the first in the hot seat and started the race for the team. Making a clean start, he managed to avoid a pile-up of cars which had crashed in front of him, even before the start of the race. By the end of the stint he had managed to climb into a top 30 position, before a safety car was called out. The team used this delay to their advantage, completing a pitstop for new tyres and fuel, whilst also swapping drivers replacing Belshaw with Wilkins. The strategy worked beautifully, and the car found itself in a promising 22nd position.

Wilkins maintained the position on track until a final pitstop allowed Christodoulou to take the wheel ready to guide the Audi through to the chequered flag.

Some time had been lost during the pitstop due to a faulty wheel nut which lost the team a couple of places, but once the car had returned to the track Christo demonstrated he was able retain control, and in the final laps passed enough cars bring the car home in 17th overall position and 7th in class. This was the highest in-class result the team had achieved all year, and also secured them the honour of being the highest placed 2011 Audi.

After the chequered flag Christodoulou was grateful for the opportunity, “I’d like to thank Craig, Peter, Aaron and all the crew at GT3 Racing for allowing me the opportunity to race with them. An excellent experience all round, and I wish them the best of luck for the final round of the Blancpain Endurance Championship in Spain!”

Christodoulou’s next race is this weekend at Monza, Italy and will be back in the more familiar racing seat of a McLaren GT3.

Ecurie EcosseEcurie Ecosse netted a well-deserved Blancpain Endurance Series point from a gruelling three-hour race at the Nurburgring yesterday (23 September) as spirited performances from Andrew Smith, Ollie Millroy and Joe Twyman helped guide the team’s Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3 to 20th overall and 10th in the Pro-Am class.

After taking the start from the 12th row of the grid Smith produced a stellar opening stint, at times lapping amongst the top-eight and moving the Z4 towards the class front-runners.

But a safety car period 30 minutes into the race would slow the Scottish squad’s progress. While many of their rivals quickly ducked into the pits, the 2011-spec Ecosse BMW was forced to remain on-track until their fuel window opened. Smith handed over to Twyman shortly after the 50-minute mark, by which time the team had lost the best part of three-quarters of a lap to those able to stop earlier.

Undeterred, Twyman resumed in 26th spot and, despite contact with a Ferrari knocking the Z4′s steering geometry out, climbed the order to run just outside the top-20 after his 65-minute stint.

Millroy took over for the final third of the event and immediately raised eyebrows by running at the same pace as the lead 2012-spec BMW of Frank Kechele. Despite the car’s slight imbalance, Millroy did a sterling job to reward the team with their first Blancpain Endurance Series point of the year. The youngster took the chequered flag 10th in class, chasing home the Ferrari driven by motorcycle legend Valentino Rossi.

Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Managing Director: “It’s a real shame that we couldn’t pit under the safety car but we still had a really solid weekend, which was capped nicely by our first points in the highly competitive Blancpain championship. At least we won’t have this problem next year as we’ll have the latest kit by then!”

Andrew Smith, Ecurie Ecosse driver: “I haven’t been back in the car since my first GT race at Monza in April. Conditions there were dreadful so this was my first proper dry start, and I loved every minute of it! Ollie did a fantastic job in qualifying – it was great to be back sharing the car with him and Joe again – and I’m delighted we managed to score some points. Roll on Navarra!”

Ollie Millroy, Ecurie Ecosse driver: “We saw another strong performance from the whole team at the Nurburgring. To come away with a top-10 class finish in the toughest GT championship in the world driving a 2011-spec car is a great achievement for everyone. I was very happy with my lap in qualifying as I felt I really got the maximum from the car. All three drivers put together very strong stints in the race and now I can’t wait to get going again at Navarra!”

Joe Twyman, Ecurie Ecosse driver: “To have come away with a point today is just incredible. With the longer-range fuel tanks we looked set for a result in the top-15, so our pace couldn’t have been much better. I am thrilled with the progress we have all made this year and I’m looking forward to adding to the points at Navarra in three weeks time.”

The team’s final Blancpain Endurance Series event of the year takes place at Spain’s Circuito de Navarra (October 14) where the Scottish outfit will be looking to end their maiden season in the championship with another strong performance. Before that however, Ecurie Ecosse will be in British GT action at Donington Park (29–30 September) with Alasdair McCaig battling for the drivers’ title. The Scot trails the championship leaders by just half a point heading to the decisive season finale.

Photo by Peter May Images.

Phil QuaifePhil Quaife will be back behind the wheel of a McLaren MP4-12C GT3 car this weekend (26-29 July) when the Blancpain Endurance Series visits Belgium for one of international motorsport’s biggest events: the Total 24 Hours of Spa.

The 26-year-old Briton, whose competition programme has largely taken a back seat in 2012 as he concentrates on official test driving duties for McLaren Automotive, will again link up with Lapidus Racing with whom he contested the previous Blancpain round at Paul Ricard last month.

In a Pro/Am class packed with genuine victory contenders Quaife can count on the experience, speed and support of three familiar faces in the guise of former CRS Racing team-mates Klaas Hummel, Adam Christodoulou and Tim Mullen.

Quaife is also able to call on the knowledge of racing an MP4-12C GT3 at Spa last season where he finished as the highest placed McLaren driver in what was one of the car’s first competitive outings.

Phil Quaife: “It’s great to be getting back behind the wheel of a racing car again after spending most of the season testing for McLaren Automotive. As well as being very grateful to them for allowing me to drive this weekend, I would also like to thank Lapidus Racing for offering me the seat. The MP4-12C GT3 has been developed considerably since it raced at Spa last season so I’ve got high expectations of recording a strong result.

“The Blancpain Endurance Series – and especially its Pro/Am class – is incredibly competitive this season. Even so, I think our driver crew stacks up very favourably compared to the opposition, especially when you consider how much experience we have from racing together previously. Klaas has come a long way since we first raced together, while Adam and Tim are top-line Pros in their own right.

“I really love racing at Spa and especially the 24 Hours. The week-long build-up and atmosphere are both similar to Le Mans and the action on-track is so intense. There are 70-plus GT3 cars entered this year which is an incredible number to have racing around a 4.3-mile circuit. I can’t wait!”

Live coverage of this weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa will be shown across Europe on Motors TV. Check local listings for details.

Total 24 Hours of Spa schedule:

Thursday 26 July:
09:40 – 11:10: Free Practice
18:05 – 19:35: Pre-Qualifying
20:30 – 21:45: Qualifying 1
22:15 – 23:30: Qualifying 2

Saturday 28 July:
09:00 – 09:20: Warm-up
16:00: Race Start

Sunday 29 July:
16:00: Chequered Flag

For more information on Phil Quaife, please visit www.philquaife.com

FiskensFiskens, London’s foremost historic automobile specialists, will team-up with sportscar racing legends Ecurie Ecosse in 2012 after agreeing a deal to sponsor the Scottish outfit’s return to full-time competition.

The partnership will see Fiskens’ insignia appear on Ecurie Ecosse’s new BMW Z4 GT3, driver overalls and team apparel as the revived squad launches a dual assault on the British GT Championship and pan-European Blancpain Endurance Series.

London-based Fiskens boast strong links with historic and modern day motor sport. Managing director Gregor Fisken has enjoyed a successful racing career at the wheel of classic and contemporary machinery, contesting four Le Mans 24 Hours and more recently enjoying a race-winning 2011 season in British GT.

In fact Fisken is no stranger to the Ecosse squad having tackled a selection of blue riband races for the team, recording a particularly memorable class podium at the Nurburgring 24 Hours in 2002.

Moreover, a number of Ecosse cars have gone on sale at Fiskens’ Kensington Mews showroom in recent years, with a 1965 Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro – piloted by F1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart – and a 1985 ‘Henry’ Ecosse Ford C2 currently on-site.

Ecosse’s return to full-time competition in 2012 opens the next chapter on a story that began over half a century ago. During an incredibly successful and varied history the outfit has scored two outright victories at the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours, claimed the 1986 C2 World Sportscar Championship and enjoyed a clutch of wins on their way to the 1995 British Touring Car title.

What’s more, the team hold the enviable distinction of having fielded every Scottish Formula 1 race winner, including three-time world champion Stewart and the late great Jim Clark.

“I am immensely proud that Fiskens will be associated with Ecurie Ecosse’s return to international motor sport,” commented Gregor Fisken. “As a Scotsman and a racing enthusiast I have always been a tremendous fan of the team and am thrilled to be involved with the next chapter of their history.

“Like Fiskens, Ecurie Ecosse draws inspiration from the triumphs of the past to build for the future. We are pleased to be partnering with a team of their calibre.”

“It’s great to have Fiskens on board as a sponsor for the 2012 campaign,” added Ecurie Ecosse team boss Hugh McCaig. “As a racer himself Gregor knows how crucial good partners are to a competitive programme, and we believe we’ve added a real gem in Fiskens. We are thrilled that they will join us on what we hope to be a successful year’s racing.”

Ecurie Ecosse begin their season at Oulton Park (April 7-9) with the opening round of the British GT Championship. The following weekend they travel to legendary Italian circuit Monza where the Blancpain Endurance Series begins its 2012 campaign.

Photo by Xynamic Motorsport Photography.

Ecurie Ecosse60 years since the team was formed, legendary Scottish outfit Ecurie Ecosse will make a full-time return to top-level international sportscar racing in 2012. The team will run twin programmes in the Blancpain Endurance Series (including 24 Hours of Spa) and British GT Championship with a BMW Z4 GT3.

The illustrious squad, which won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1956 and ‘57, has been largely dormant on an international level since the 1990s when the team won the British Touring Car Championship running works Vauxhalls. This latest announcement follows a successful one-off return by Ecurie Ecosse last year when four of its drivers successfully contested the GT3 Pro-Am class of the 24 Hours of Spa in an Aston Martin DBRS9.

Ecurie Ecosse is continuing its successful partnership with two-time British GT Championship winners Barwell Motorsport who will run the programmes on the team’s behalf. The British GT Championship rounds will be contested by drivers Oliver Bryant and Alasdair McCaig, with Andrew Smith and Joe Twyman filling two of three seats available for the team’s Pro-Am Blancpain Endurance Series campaign. Barwell are seeking a suitably qualified driver with budget to fill the third Blancpain seat.

Ecurie Ecosse has attracted commercial backing for the season from sponsors such as John Clark Motor Group, Cotton Tree, Bremont and Ragus.

Team boss Hugh McCaig, who sees the 2012 programme as a natural progression towards a return to Le Mans, commented:

“This is a very exciting development for Ecurie Ecosse. We looked at a number of options for 2012 following the race at Spa last year but believe, with the combination of BMW’s Z4 GT3 and guys at Barwell, that we absolutely have the right ingredients in place to achieve success. We also have a team of ambitious and talented young drivers who have shown their commitment to this programme through a tireless effort to put the deal together in an extremely challenging economic environment. Ultimately we want to be back at Le Mans and this is a fantastic step in the right direction.”

Ecurie Ecosse driver Andrew Smith added:

“We are all very excited to be involved in the continuing development of the Ecurie Ecosse comeback. We are confident the BMW Z4 GT3 is the best chassis out there and I have no doubt that our combination of car, drivers and team will prove competitive.”

Barwell Motorsport Managing Director Mark Lemmer is looking forward to the start of pre-season testing:

“We are absolutely delighted to announce that we will be running the Ecurie Ecosse programme with the BMW Z4 and believe this is the start of what will be a very exciting and fruitful partnership.”

The team is exploring a number of new commercial partnership opportunities with interested sponsors.

Team GT3 PortugalTeam GT3 Portugal is back on track next weekend for the 4th round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Magny Cours, France. The Portuguese trio is currently 5th on the PRO-AM Class and the aim for this weekend is to finish on the podium and keep fighting for the championship.

After on month of interval from the 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, the first ever 100% Portuguese team to compete in an International GT Championship have high ambitions and a very strong team spirit to this weekend: “August was a good month to rest with my family. Now I am totally focused on this weekend race and I am very motivated to fight for the top positions on the pro-am class. I know the competition is very strong but I also know that me Ricardo and Lourenço are very consistent and strong team so we have to think on finishing on the podium this weekend”, said the youngest driver of the Team GT3 Portugal.

Both Ricardo Bravo and Duarte Felix da Costa never been at Magny Cours but this shouldn’t be a handicap for the Portuguese drivers as Ricardo explained: “I only know Magny Cours from television watching F1 but both me and Duarte have been on the simulator to help our knowledge. On the other hand we can quickly adapt to new circuits as was proven in Spain, when we finished on the podium at Navarra that was unknown for us”.

Eager to return to the Lamborghini Gallardo LP600 is also Lourenco Beirão da Veiga: “Magny Cours is a very important race for us. At Spa we lost two positions on the standings but it is not over yet and I believe it is possible to recover them this weekend. We are only 8 points from 3rd so we have to aim for good points and progress on the championship”.

With a different format than the normal weekends both qualifying and race will take place on Saturday. The whole 3 hours of the race will be broadcast at Motors TV on Saturday 17:00.