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Oliver MillroySurrey-based professional racing driver Ollie Millroy secured third place in the European Le Mans Series GTC class drivers’ standings at Paul Ricard last weekend (September 27/28) to cap an impressive season of international sportscar competition.

Millroy travelled to the French circuit with the aim of scoring strongly to boost both his own and the Ecurie Ecosse powered by Black Bull team’s championship outcomes. The squad’s Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3 had its last competitive outing at the Hungaroring during round four of the pan-European endurance championship where it suffered a non-finish after being taken out of the race by a GTE-class Ferrari.

With a strong result essential to their title hopes, Millroy and Ecosse regular Andrew Smith were joined for the French event by experienced GT racer Phil Quaife. Friday’s pair of one-hour official practice sessions were spent trying to find an optimum set-up for the car and allowing Quaife to acclimatise to the front-engined BMW, which he had not previously turned a lap in.

Championship regulations dictate that the 2013-specification Z4 GT3 must carry 110kg of extra ballast over its standard minimum weight. Given the car’s low torque relative to its rivals and the resulting lack of straight-line speed, the team would have to use everything in its armoury to ensure a competitive run, especially with no chicanes being used on Paul Ricard’s extremely long Mistral Straight. Indeed, the Z4 was losing two seconds per lap to the more powerful Ferraris, whose maximum speed was some 20kmh higher.

Having made set-up changes following free practice Millroy and Quaife shared Saturday morning’s 20-minute qualifying session by completing three and two laps respectively. Millroy posted the team’s fastest effort on his second flying lap with a 1m58.944s, though it was clearly impossible to compete with the power of the Ferraris which locked out the top five spots in the GTC class and the top four in GTE. As such Ecosse had to settle for seventh on the grid, albeit 1.3 seconds quicker than the rival Z4 of DKR Engineering.

Smith began Saturday’s three-hour race and made good early progress, passing the GTC Lamborghini of Nico Pronk and some of the faster GTE cars on his way to fifth spot, before handing over to Quaife at the 45-minute mark. Following a faultless pit stop by the Barwell Motorsport crew Quaife went on to complete a further 45-minute stint before handing over to Millroy in fourth position at half race distance.

Millroy’s first 50-minute stint would be completed on fresh tyres and a full tank. He quickly moved into third place in the GTC class and, with 30 minutes remaining, pitted to take on a small amount of extra fuel so as to continue until the end. However this allowed the fourth-placed Scuderia Villorba Corse Ferrari to close to within 25 seconds of the Z4. With the Italian car catching at two seconds per lap Millroy was powerless to resist as the Ferrari cruised past on the Mistral Straight, denying Ecosse their fourth podium of the season.

Nevertheless Millroy brought the car home in P4, clinching third place in the drivers’ championship for himself and Smith, as well as third place for the Scottish outfit in the teams’ championship. Meanwhile Ecosse drivers Alasdair McCaig and Joe Twyman took sixth and ninth places in the drivers’ standings, despite having missed two and three of the five championship rounds respectively.

Millroy and the team left France delighted to have produced such strong showings in the highly competitive GTC class during their maiden season competing in the ELMS, and buoyant about their future prospects on the international racing scene.

Ollie Millroy: “This was another very strong performance from the whole team and to finish third in the European Le Mans Series drivers’ championship this early in my GT racing career is something I’m very proud of. The Barwell Motorsport-prepared Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 has run perfectly all season, so I would like to thank everyone involved in making that happen. They’ve all fought extremely hard against some tough opposition. Hopefully my performances and consistency this year will open doors for me to continue the development of my sportscar career.”

2013 European Le Mans Series – GTC Drivers’ Championship top-three (after 5 of 5 races)
1. Fabio Babini/Kirill Ladygin/Viktor Shaitar (SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia) 100 points
2. Lorenzo Case/Stefano Gai/Andrea Rizzolo (AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia) 76
3. Ollie Millroy/Andrew Smith (Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3) 67

2013 European Le Mans Series – GTC Teams’ Championship top-three (after 5 of 5 races)
1. SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia 100 points
2. AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia 76
3. Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 67

Photo by Peter May

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.

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.

Surrey racing driver Ollie Millroy returned to Formula BMW Europe this weekend at Spa Francorchamps, alongside Formula 1, with a very solid top six finish on Sunday to the delight of his team Raikkonen Robertson. After a disappointing qualifying session on Friday which left him on grid 16 and 15 Ollie had two very solid races although Saturday’s race was unfortunately brought to an abrupt end by mechanical failure.

“I had a problem during qualifying because my radio wasn’t working and I had no contact with the team said Ollie. This caused me to overrun on my first set of tyres and only gave me two quick laps on my second set. I decided I didn’t have time to look for a tow and put two quick laps in on my own which around Spa cost me a lot of time although it could have been worse. Race one on Saturday was going well and after a good start I made up two places at the first corner and worked my way up to 11th place and with still three laps to go there was a failure with the rear wheel bearing which ended my race. In race two on Sunday I again had a good start and throughout the race the car was quick and felt good which allowed me to finish sixth at the chequered flag.”

“After a not such a good start on Friday and Saturday I think I came away with about as good a result as I could expect. The team are great to work with and the car feels good so I can go to Monza in a couple of week’s time confident of getting a good result. I was quickest overall there at the official test earlier this year and with Double R we will be going for the win.”

British racer Ollie Millroy will join Raikkonen Robertson for this weekend’s Formula BMW Europe race at Spa-Francorchamps, as well as the season finale at Monza next month.  The 19 year-old will race along side the team’s regular Formula BMW drivers Rupert Svendsen-Cook and Gregoire Demoustier.

It’s been a quick turnaround for the Formula BMW Europe teams this week, who have travelled from last weekend’s race in Valencia, to the historic Belgium circuit of Spa for rounds 13 and 14 of the season.  Last time out in Valencia, Svendsen-Cook added a fifth place finish to his tally of six top six finishes so far this season, which has put him seventh in the drivers championship.

This weekend will be the first time Millroy has raced with the Raikkonen Robertson team, although the Surrey based driver has previous experience in the Formula BMW car, having competed the first three rounds of the year and having raced in Formula BMW Europe last year.

In 2008 Millroy also competed in the Formula BMW Pacific championship, taking second place in his first race in the series, followed by a victory in Singapore.

Millroy will be aiming for a good result on his favourite track – the 4.2 mile Spa circuit which will also play host to the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix this weekend.   Millroy also has a strong record at the final venue of the season – Monza, having been the fastest driver overall at this year’s pre season test at the Italian circuit.

“I thought my career in Formula BMW Europe was behind me,” said Millroy, “but the opportunity to race with Raikkonen Robertson at the final two rounds of the season was too good to turn down.  I feel like I’ve got some unfinished business in the series, so I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to prove myself in the remaining four races.  Spa is one of my favourite tracks and I was quickest at Monza in testing, so I’m really looking forward to two strong weekends.”

Team Principal Anthony Hieatt added, “We’re very pleasedthat Ollie will be joining us for the final two events of the season.  His experience in Formula BMW and his speed at the official test at Monza earlier this year will undoubtedly make him an asset to the team.  Rupert is similarly experienced in the series and we’ve really seen him develop into a regular front runner.  Hopefully he can push for his first win in the remaining four races.”

A decision was made following the two championship rounds at Silverstone, which took place alongside the British Grand Prix, to withdraw Ollie from Formula BMW Europe. Due to reasons beyond his control it was felt that there was little to be gained in completing a second year in the junior championship without being in a position to win and a move onto testing and racing in a senior Formula now would be more beneficial for the young Surrey racing drivers career in preparing for 2010.

Ollie is actively talking with teams from all over the world at the moment and a decision will be made as soon as possible on what he will do for the rest of the year to keep him racing.

“I’m very disappointed not to be completing the Formula BMW championship to say the least because for sure at the start of the season I expected to be one of the front runners and competing for the championship. The trouble is we just weren’t on the pace and I had nothing to gain running in the middle of the pack for the rest of the season with little chance of getting up the sharp end. At the end of the day these things are out of my hands but I can understand why I have been withdrawn and I trust the judgement of those around me who have made this decision. All I have to do is keep myself fit and wait for a decision to be made. I’m already getting a lot of interest from the UK, America and Asia so hopefully I should be back in a car very soon. We are also still looking for sponsors or an investor, which is especially difficult at the moment because of the economic situation but my immediate concern is that I’m back in a race car as soon as possible so I can get my career back on track”.