Reigning Avon Tyres British GT champions Ecurie Ecosse were in imperious form during the series’ trip to Rockingham. The Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3 of Marco Attard and Alexander Sims secured victory in an action-packed two-hour race at the Northamptonshire venue, with both drivers making on-track passes for the lead during the live televised event.
The pair had secured pole position in Saturday’s qualifying and Attard continued the good work by leading the field into turn one. However, Andrew Howard shadowed the Z4 from the start and quickly launched a challenge for the lead in his #007 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3, slipping past at the Deene hairpin.
The field looked to have safely negotiated the opening lap, only for a clash between the two Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650S machines to prompt a safety car period. When the action resumed Attard began to apply pressure to 2013 Drivers’ champion Howard and retook the lead with 20 minutes on the clock.
Attard was able to maintain his place at the head of the pack, while behind him a hard-charging Ahmad Al Harthy deposed Howard for second spot. The #2 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 driver soon began chipping away at Attard’s lead, but the BMW was able to retain a slender advantage to hand over to Sims in P1.
The Barwell Motorsport-run Ecosse car served an additional 10 seconds during their pit-stop having finished third last time out at Oulton Park, allowing the #2 Aston to assume the lead with Daniel Lloyd now at the controls.
But once out on track Sims continued his team-mate’s good work, closing on to the rear of the Aston and bagging the Sunoco Fastest Race Lap of the Weekend prize with a series of rapid times. Lloyd put in an excellent defensive performance by fending off the BMW for several tours, but surrendered the lead when he ran wide in lapped traffic.
Sims quickly built an advantage, but with a little over 20 minutes to run he found himself under pressure once more when another safety car period bunched up the pack.
When green flag conditions resumed Sims edged away yet again, but the action was far from over behind him. Lloyd was hunted down by a pair of charging cars during the closing laps, with fellow Oman Racing Team driver Rory Butcher and the #30 RAM Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 of Lewis Plato both closing up to the rear of the Aston.
While the Attard/Sims effort took outright victory – which also secured the pair GT3 Pro/Am spoils – Lloyd just held on to clinch runner-up spot, as well as Silver Cup honours with Al Harthy in the process. Butcher completed the podium, crossing the line just four tenths clear of Plato. Butcher’s team-mate Liam Griffin picked up the Blancpain Driver of the Weekend award for his role in the Oman Racing Team car’s podium finish.
Matt Bell took fifth in the TF Sport Aston Martin he shares with Derek Johnston, beating the Mowle/Osborne BMW Z4 GT3 by just 0.745s. The #18 Ferrari had been in contention for a top-five, only for Adam Carroll to receive a black flag during the closing stages for causing the accident that necessitated a second safety car.
Marco Attard, Barwell Motorsport/Ecurie Ecosse: “We’re really pleased. I went deep at one point and Andrew [Howard] got past me, but he returned the favour later so I was able to take advantage. Then I could hand over to Alexander and didn’t have to worry about it because he’s just the best!”
Alexander Sims, Barwell Motorsport/Ecurie Ecosse: “It all felt pretty good in my little bubble! Fair play to Daniel [Lloyd], he did a really good job defending so the first 20 minutes were great fun. After I got through it was pretty plain sailing, so I just got my head down and pushed on.”
Ahmad Al Harthy, Oman Racing Team: “Starting third and finishing second – and a first podium for me and Dan – represents a great result for us. We really deserved it and both drove really well – it was great teamwork. Morale will be really high tonight and going into Silverstone.”
Liam Griffin, Oman Racing Team: “Somehow our third place here seems even better than the two we had at Oulton! The car was really good and Rory and I make a pretty good team! It was a great race, really exciting and a great spectacle for the championship.”
Attard and Sims now lead the way in both the GT3 Drivers’ and Pro/Am standings, while Oman Racing Team top their classification. Griffin leads the Blancpain Gentleman’s Trophy by 3.5 points from Attard, while the GT3 Silver Cup is headed by the Al Harthy /Lloyd combination.
The 2015 British GT campaign returns to action in four weeks’ time at British Grand Prix venue Silverstone (May 30/31).