It was a strong end to the season for Ollie Millroy in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 at Navarra, Spain in the final round of the Blancpain Endurance Series. As one of the very few modern circuits in the world that Ollie hasn’t yet driven, he was going to have a new challenge ahead of him which didn’t seem faze him at all.
Ollie’s first lap of the Navarra Circuit was in the 90 minute free-practice session on Saturday morning, and he settled in straight away. Having prepared thoroughly on the simulator at iZone Performance and from watching on-board videos there was no sign that Ollie hadn’t yet completed a lap of this circuit and he was setting competitive lap times throughout the session. In the second 90-minute practice session he was able to run new tyres to get a good feel for the setup he would be using in qualifying. During these sessions it was also important for Ollie’s teammates Andrew Smith and Joe Twyman to complete some laps in the car, and they were also straight up to speed against the very strong Pro-Am field.
Ollie worked hard with the experienced Barwell Motorsport Ecurie Ecosse team on Saturday evening and having looked through computer data and using his feedback, they made a few tweaks before Sunday morning’s qualifying session. Ollie headed out for the 15-minute session on a brand new set of tyres, and proved just how well he has taken to the BMW Motorsport machine. Ollie set a time of 1:38.593, the fastest time that has ever been set at Navarra in the 2011 BMW Z4 GT3 car and a lap time that would have put him on pole position in the 2011 FIA GT3 race.
Andrew Smith started the 3-hour endurance race from 26th on the grid in the number 79 Ecurie Ecosse car on dry circuit but with dark clouds overhead. He put in a very solid stint and held his own against some highly experience professional drivers in the competitive Pro-Am field, and pitted to change with Joe Twyman who was to complete the 2nd hour of the race. Joe put in his best performance of the year so far and with and hour to go he entered the pit lane for Ollie to take the controls. However, just as Joe was about to pit the heavens opened so the team made the decision to send Ollie out for his stint on a fresh set of wet tyres. These conditions looked perfect for Ollie after his outstanding performances in the rain at Silverstone and Monza, so the team were hoping for a Pro-Am podium position. However, just 3 laps into his stint he experienced a loss of control at high speed due to aquaplaning, one of the worst feelings a race driver can have. He had to call upon all of his experience and car control to keep the 510bhp car pointing in the right direction and after many other drivers suffered the same problem, the race directors deployed the safety car. The rain didn’t ease off and on the grounds of safety, the final 55-minutes of the race were completed under safety car conditions. This was a real shame for Ollie as he and the BMW Z4 GT3 car are an unstoppable package in the wet conditions and this also meant that the Ecurie Ecosse team didn’t receive the benefits of running their Pro-Driver.
“I have really enjoyed my first season in GT Racing and have settled in straight away. The BMW Z4 GT3 is an incredible car to drive and I really hope to be racing it again next year. It was a shame to end the year behind the safety car at Navarra but the most important thing is that all the drivers are safe, and I’m extremely happy with my lap in qualifying. The Barwell Motorsport Ecurie Ecosse team have been fantastic to drive for and I will now be working hard to finalise plans for the 2013 season.”