Ellis Battles to Bag ....

 FIA GT3 European Championship Points at Silverstone

Bradley Ellis battled against adversity in the opening rounds of the FIA GT3 European Championship at Silverstone, 19&20 April, to come back from 25th on the grid to 11th on Saturday and bag a point-scoring finish with seventh on Sunday. With team-mate Ed Morris (Sittingbourne, Kent), Ellis overcame mechanical and technical issues but looked promising in their first outing in the Ford GT.

On the Friday test day it became apparent that the Ford GT, which was a brand new car not previously tested, would have more than its fair share of teething problems. Unfortunately that meant that neither Morris nor Ellis could get any significant time at the wheel without returning to the pits to rectify electronic issues, intermittent power steering, a gearbox assembly error, no ABS, no pit lane speed limiter and no pits-to-car radio. However, Ellis’ excellent technical feedback and data analysis helped to swiftly identify the gremlins, which the Matech team did well to rectify, but left the pair with a maximum of five laps on track.

A drizzly, damp day on Saturday greeted the first qualifying session which was really Morris’ first practice run in the Ford GT, resulting in a grid slot of 25th. Ellis managed 12th in the second session for Sunday’s round two, but his time would have been good enough to take pole in session one.

Morris made a good start from the 13th row for round one, which actually played in his favour as he avoided the opening lap melee that included an accident and at least two spinning cars. Morris maximised on the opportunity to surge forward and took 10 places by the time he passed the pits. With the Ford GT running well, Morris continued to press on and took a further two places by the end of lap two.

Morris made sensible and steady progress in the ensuing laps. Despite struggling with understeer, the 19-year-old eased the car up to 11th position before pitting at the 30-minute marker to hand over to Ellis.

Despite a swift driver change, a problem fastening Ellis’ belts lost at least 10 seconds and, instead of rejoining on the cusp of the top ten, Ellis took up the mantle in 17th. The reigning British GT Champion immediately got to grips with making up for lost time by taking places on his out lap.

Ten minutes or so into his stint, Ellis had regained sufficient ground to lie 15th and was taking 14th when the car in front spun directly into the Croydon racer’s path. Although Ellis lost valuable seconds to the cars ahead, he emerged two places better off in 13th. The recently accepted BRDC member fought his way through the spread out field to take two further places.

With ten minutes remaining, Ellis was up to 11th and making the most of a clear track to post his quickest lap times, placing him just 10 tenths of a second adrift of leader Thomas Mutsch (GBR). Lapping at a relentless pace, Ellis made good ground to close to within a few seconds of Richard Williams (GBR) in the Porsche but the chequered flag fell far too soon for Ellis to make an impression. However, 11th from 25th on the grid remained a respectable result.

Round two on Sunday kicked off with cloudy conditions and a damp track but that didn’t stop Ellis from making a good start from 12th and taking one place exiting Becketts. However, at the end of lap one the safety car came out holding the field for two laps. Ellis maximised on his position at the restart to take Tom Ferrier (GBR) in the Lamborghini at Stowe for 10th place and Ben Clucas’ (GBR) Jaguar around the outside at Maggotts for ninth the following lap.

Ellis soon latched on to the back of Jonathan Lang (GBR) but although the Ascari was slow into the corners it was able to pull away quicker than the Ford GT, loosing Ellis up to two seconds per lap as a result. The 20-year-old finally found a way past and, with a car higher up the field taking to the pits, Ellis was up to seventh.

Once clear of the Ascari, Ellis was able to post some much-improved lap times but the time lost meant that the leading pack had pulled away. Although Ellis made an impression on the group, it was time to pit and handover to Morris two laps later.

Lacking a pit lane speed restrictor, the duo had to err on the side of caution consequently loosing valuable seconds to the Ascari and Morris rejoined the fray in 11th. Holding ninth once the pit stops were complete, Morris steadily picked off eighth and seventh placed cars. While pushing to catch Jean-Claude Lagniez (FRA) 25-seconds up the track, Morris also had to contend with Nicki Cadei (ITA) filling his mirrors.

Regardless, Morris sliced five seconds a lap out of Lagniez’s Aston Martin to command a challenging position four laps later. But as Morris lined up to pass, Cadei managed to take both Morris and Lagniez. Not prepared to settle for eighth, Morris managed to pass Lagniez on the final lap but the Ferrari was already too far ahead to contemplate any further manoeuvres. Morris took the chequered flag and bagged valuable championship points in the process.

Ellis commented: “It was great to be back out on the race track again but this weekend was quite a challenge. It’s remarkable that we managed to walk away from Silverstone with some championship points as to be honest on Friday that just wasn’t looking possible. If we hadn’t experienced the problems in practice and had to race without ABS and power steering, then I am sure we would have two points-paying finishes in the bag. But at the end of the day we salvaged something out of nothing and those championship points might come in handy towards the end of the season. I’d like to thank Lifestyle Europe, ATS and Stanox for supporting me at this round.”

FIA GT3 European Championship – Provisional Results

Round One, Silverstone, UK

1          Khan/Mutsch                  Ford GT                                     1:00:05.149

2          Forsten/Loix                   Porsche 997 GT3                                    +2.441

3          Giraudi/Zani                   Aston Martin DBRS9                     +17.257

4          Cadei/Balbiani                Ferrari F430 GT3                         +20.451

5          Quaife/Hall                    Jaguar XKR                                 +21.906

6          Fabris/Ferrier                  Lamborghini Gallardo GT3                        +24.025

7          Peyroles/Ruffier              Corvette Z06R GT3                      +24.306

8          Vannelet/Lunardi                        Dodge Viper Competition Coupe    +25.582

9          Rich/Thompson              Ascari KZ1R GT3                         +29.542

10         Ashburn/Williams                        Porsche 997 GT3                        +36.135

11         Morris/Ellis                     Ford GT                                     +38.422

FIA GT3 European Championship – Provisional Results

Round Two, Silverstone, UK

1          Mutsch/Khan                  Ford GT                                     1:00:14.797

2          Ruffier/Peyroles              Corvette Z06R GT3                      +1.887

3          Loix/Forsten                   Porsche 997 GT3                                    +10.347

4          Scheier/Lesoudier                       Morgan Aero 8 GT3         +14.333

5          Lunardi/Vannelet                        Dodge Viper Competition Coupe    +14.587

6          Balbiani/Cadei                Ferrari F430 GT3                         +42.375

7          Ellis/Morris                     Ford GT                                     +45.464

8          Rambeaud/Misslin                       Ferrari F430 GT3             +49.049

9          Makowiecki/Lagniez         Aston Martin DBRS9                     +49.634

10         Lemeret/Greenhalgh       Ascari KZ1R GT3                         +54.007