Ollie Millroy endured a frustrating start to his 2014 Asian Le Mans Series campaign at the 3 Hours of Inje in South Korea last weekend (July 19/20) where the Briton finished third in the GT class alongside Team AAI co-drivers Tatsuya Tanigawa and JunSan Chen.
The 24-year-old Esher resident had been eager to make a winning start to the season after his first appearance with the Taiwanese outfit resulted in a dominant Malaysian Super Series victory at Sepang in mid-May. But ultimately those hopes would be dashed by a number of problems that affected his #91 BMW Z4 GT3 during the weekend.
Saturday’s qualifying session hinted at what was to come when a cracked exhaust system prevented the car from reaching its top speed. But despite being 14km/h slower in a straight line than the team’s sister Z4, Millroy was still able to qualify second in class with a time only 0.152sec shy of pole.
With the problem traced and fixed in time for Sunday’s race, Tanigawa could keep pace with the leading Mercedes throughout his opening trouble-free stint, before handing over to Chen with just under 70 minutes gone. But after the Taiwanese driver had initially used his fresh tyres to take the lead, a problem re-setting the BMW’s ABS braking system necessitated an unscheduled pit-stop just seven laps after the first.
Although the car had dropped to third in class by the end of Chen’s stint, Millroy was able to utilise his vast knowledge of the BMW Z4 GT3 to reboot its ABS system. But no sooner had that problem been resolved than a suspected suspension issue developed, leading to excessive front tyre wear and a handling imbalance that prompted the Briton to pit again after just 20 minutes.
With fresh front rubber the BMW was transformed, prompting Millroy to embark upon an epic, if ultimately fruitless, pursuit of second place. Indeed, over the final 40 or so minutes he was able to slash the gap from 45 to 14 seconds and set the #91 car’s fastest lap on a number of occasions, hinting at what might have been.
“It was a pretty frustrating weekend in all honesty,” confirmed Ollie afterwards. “At no stage did we really have an opportunity to exploit the car’s full potential. Qualifying is not necessarily vital in endurance racing, but it’s still nice to show what I can do. I was only one-and-a-half tenths from pole so the broken exhaust really did make all the difference.
“Nothing seemed to go our way in the race, either. Tatsuya’s opening stint was very good and he was able to stick with the leading Mercedes throughout. We were all really hopeful that if JunSan could do likewise we’d be right in the mix when it came to my turn. Of course it didn’t work out like that, which is a massive shame because the car was definitely fast enough to win this weekend. I really had the bit between my teeth, even if bridging the gap to second always looked like a tall order.”
Millroy will be looking to return to winning ways on August 30/31 when the Asian Le Mans Series continues at Fuji Speedway in Japan.