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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 Ecosse produced a remarkable comeback display during the British GT Championship’s double-header weekend at Snetterton (4/5 August) as their Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 overcame heavy crash damage on Saturday to score strong points in both of Sunday’s races.

The level of repair required on the car, coupled with a scarcity of available parts, raised questions over the team’s participation in Sunday’s pair of one-hour outings.

However, a herculean effort from the Barwell Motorsport crew – which included an overnight trip to the Netherlands to collect spares – saw the car ready to run in time for the opening contest.

The legendary Scottish squad’s Blancpain Endurance Series racer Ollie Millroy was standing in for injured British GT regular Oliver Bryant at the Norfolk circuit, partnering Alasdair McCaig as the Scotsman sought to consolidate his fourth spot in the drivers’ championship.

Millroy – who has shown eye-catching pace in each of his Blancpain outings this season – was pushing hard to set a quick time in free practice before an imminent rain shower hit the track. Unfortunately the Z4 drifted off-line while cutting through slower GT4 traffic, sending it into the tyre barriers and badly damaging the front end.

But thanks to the efforts of the Barwell crew a potential non-scoring weekend was avoided, the Z4 receiving feverish repairs that were still underway early on Sunday morning.

The team also enjoyed a stroke of luck on Saturday, with qualifying cancelled after heavy storms left the Norfolk venue undriveable. As such the grid was decided using practice times, placing the Ecosse car ninth and seventh respectively for Sunday’s two one-hour contests.

British GT race-winner McCaig tackled the opening stint of the first event and enjoyed a strong getaway to grab sixth spot. He then found himself part of a four-car train headed by the Trackspeed Porsche of David Ashburn. Taking advantage of this, McCaig leapt to fourth only to slip back to P7 as he gamely made an effort to snatch third.

He would quickly climb back to fifth before taking to the pits for the mandatory stop and driver change. The team’s podium finish last time out at Brands Hatch incurred Ecosse an extra five-second success penalty, costing the Z4 – which now had Millroy at the wheel – a number of positions on-track.

Still looking to re-discover his groove following the practice accident, Millroy played it cool to bring the car home in eighth spot, thus extending the team’s enviable record of having finished amongst the points scorers at every race this season.

With his confidence fully restored, Millroy began race two in competitive mood and immediately launched himself into some thrilling wheel-to-wheel battles. The former BMW Scholarship winner quickly climbed to sixth and then snatched P5 before another tightly fought scrap ensued. Millroy would eventually hand over to McCaig in seventh spot.

The Scotsman then took the bit between his teeth by swiftly grabbing back fifth before helping himself to P4 late on, further extending the team’s points run and keeping McCaig fourth in the British GT standings. The Scot is now less than a race win in arrears of top spot having out-scored the championship leader over the Snetterton weekend, a stunning achievement following the team’s potentially disastrous Saturday.

Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Team Principal: “Ollie’s accident in free practice was unfortunate but it gave us the chance to show what we are made of. It was an unbelievable effort by the team and drivers to bounce back from that and achieve such solid results to keep us firmly in the title hunt.”

Alasdair McCaig, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: “To come away from the weekend 16 points closer to the championship leaders is a great result, especially given the incident on Saturday. The fact we made it onto the grid on Sunday morning at all is testament to the ability and determination of the Barwell team. I was gutted not to be driving with Olly Bryant this weekend, and with no previous experience on Avons there was a lot of pressure on Ollie Millroy to help keen me in the running for the title. He did a great job in both races and I’m really looking forward to Silverstone now.”

Ollie Millroy, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: “It was an action packed British GT debut for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The team did a fantastic job to repair the car after Saturday’s incident and we had two solid results in the races. It was great to share a car with Alasdair and I really appreciate the opportunity that Olly Bryant and the Ecurie Ecosse team gave me this weekend.”

Oliver Bryant, Ecurie Ecosse Driver: “The team did an outstanding job to repair the car this weekend, going the extra mile to get it ready for the race, so all credit to them. Alasdair had his most competitive drive of the season, pulling off some fantastic overtakes in both races which was great to see. I am really looking forward to getting back in the car with him from Silverstone onwards and will do my utmost to help him challenge for the drivers’ title.”

The team’s next British GT encounter takes place at Silverstone (8/9 September) where McCaig will be hoping to further advance his championship standing with the fit-again Bryant. Meanwhile the Blancpain crew of Millroy, Andrew Smith and Joe Twyman travel to iconic German venue the Nurbürgring over the weekend of 22/23 September.

2012 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Standings

1. David Ashburn (Trackspeed-Porsche) 104.5
2. Matt Griffin/Duncan Cameron (Mtech-Ferrari) 104
3. J. Mardenborough/A. Buncombe (RJN-Nissan) 102.5
4. Alasdair McCaig (Ecurie Ecosse-BMW) 85.5

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Motorsport Photography.

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”.