EU3: Nogaro: Bradley Ellis weekend summary

Ellis Returns to FIA GT3 European Podium at Nogaro Bradley Ellis put on a fantastic demonstration of the driving skills that helped him to clinch the 2007 British GT Championship with a return to the FIA GT3 European podium at Nogaro, France, on ...

EU3: Nogaro: Bradley Ellis weekend summary

Ellis Returns to FIA GT3 European Podium at Nogaro

Bradley Ellis put on a fantastic demonstration of the driving skills that helped him to clinch the 2007 British GT Championship with a return to the FIA GT3 European podium at Nogaro, France, on Sunday 5 October. The Croydon ace scythed his way through from 20th to finish third and clinch his first podium finish since double victory at Monza in May, which made up for the narrowly-missed podium on Saturday where the Matech Ford GT finished fourth. Ellis' consistent form has closed the gap to the championship leaders with Ellis in third on 35 points and just two rounds remaining at Dubai in December.

Following extensive further equalisation measures to the Matech Ford GT last time out at Brno, the #21 car was inflicted with an additional 10 kilos of penalty ballast for Nogaro. This gave Ellis and teammate Alex Mortimer (Stoneleigh, Warwickshire) an extra challenge on top of facing the twisty French circuit for the first time.

Ellis got a good start from third for round nine to maintain position at turn one but the Ford GT was again victim to first lap contact, this time from the #1 Corvette of Arnaud Peyroles (FRA). Although pushed wide on to the dirty track, Ellis managed to hang on but the rub lost him vital time, allowing leader Thomas Accary (FRA) in the Aston Martin and Luca Pirri (ITA) in the sister Ford GT to pull clear.

Once Ellis had cleaned-up his tyres, the 21 year-old got his head down to pull in the leading pair, edging away from Peyroles in the process. Thanks to some impressive lap times, Ellis closed on second-placed Pirri and could have challenged for position when he was held up by a Morgan while passing traffic.

Continuing to post lightening times, Ellis clawed back the gap to the sister Ford GT when Pirri pit promoting Ellis to second, presenting the Croydon British GT Champion with the opportunity to post a series of further flying times to maximise the advantage. Traffic continued to play a part on the narrow circuit, helping Accary to increase his lead to nine seconds. But armed with a clear track, Ellis was able to cut into his advantage by half a second a lap before Accary pitted. Now leading the field, Ellis pushed hard before making for the pits to handover to Mortimer after 35 minutes, having set the fastest Ford GT lap time and the second fastest lap of the race.

Ellis' efforts undoubtedly helped teammate Mortimer to join the fray in second place, having leapfrogged the #19 Ford GT during the pitstops. However, Mortimer found himself in the thick of the battle for the podium positions and, while getting up to speed, relinquished second to James Ruffier (FRA), now in the #1 Corvette.

As the final 10-minute marker approached Mortimer was lying fourth, after Juergen von Gartzen (GER) slipped past for third, while thick smoke began to pour out of the #1 Corvette's exhaust. Ruffier retired with just under five minutes to go, promoting Mortimer back into a podium point scoring position. But, already suffering on worn tyres, Mortimer had to deal with the oil dropped by the smoking Corvette, leaving him defenceless to the advances of Dino Lunardi (FRA). Sensibly opting for points, Mortimer allowed the Ferrari past with less than two minutes to go.

Despite just missing out on a podium finish, Ellis and Mortimer salvaged vital championship points where the front runners did not. However, the #8 Aston Martin's victory propelled Accary and Pierre-Brice Mena (FRA) to third in the championship with Ellis one point behind in fourth and Mortimer fifth.

With nothing to loose starting 20th on the grid, Mortimer got a good start for round 10 on Sunday and managed to avoid the mid-field melee by taking to the grass to salvage his start position. A gear shift selection problem hampered his progress but Mortimer was able to rectify the problem during the safety car period around 20 minutes into the race. After a solid stint Mortimer pitted to handover to Ellis just before the halfway mark.

Joining the battle in 20th place, Ellis wasted no time in cutting through the field and in an impressive display of driving sliced his way up to 10th place with 15 minutes to go. Setting blistering times and on a charge, Ellis proceeded to take the #37 Corvette and David Ashburn (GBR) in the Porsche 997 to sit seventh with five minutes remaining.

As the race entered the closing stages, Ellis joined the fierce multi-car battle for the final podium position. Undeterred, he carved his way through the train; passing the #10 Aston Martin driven by Jean-Claude Lagniez (FRA) and Accary's Aston Martin while also contending with traffic.

As the final laps approached, Ellis was up to fifth behind Jaromir Jirik (CZE) and the #19 Ford GT with the three cars running bumper-to-bumper in the raging battle for third place. Ellis continued to pressurise the Porsche and Ford GT when Pirri made a move on Jirik just a few corners from the finishing line on the final lap. With both cars running wide, Ellis kept his cool to calmly capture third position and continued his faultless drive to the chequered flag after taking 17 places to return to the FIA GT3 European podium.

Delighted with the result, Ellis commented: "We did a fantastic job here today and my thanks go to the Matech team. It was great to storm back from 20th to clinch the podium finish, especially after we just missed out yesterday. Alex drove a great stint today and did well to drive around the gear shift problem. I really enjoyed carving my way back through the field and I am delighted to be back on the podium. We are still in with a shot at the championship title so now we will be completely focussed on the final rounds in Dubai where we have to score maximum points. I'm looking forward to it."

The stunning performance from the young Brit reinstated his third position in the championship on 35 points, level with Accary and Mena, with Mortimer fourth on 33. Peyroles and Ruffier lead the FIA GT3 European driver standings on 44 points with Ian Khan (GBR) and Thomas Mutsch (GER) in second on 36 as the premier series heads for Dubai in December. With 20 points available in the final two rounds, it's guaranteed to be a gripping championship conclusion and Ellis remains in the thick of it.

-credit: be

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