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Andrew Watson set to make Suzuka 10 Hours debut

Andrew Watson will make his debut at the Suzuka 10 Hours, 24th – 26th August, as the 23-year old British racer rejoins Ben Barnicoat and Côme Ledogar in the #58 Garage 59 McLaren.

After switching from the Garage 59 Pro-entry to the Am-entry in a bid to secure a class win at Spa 24 Hours, Andrew Watson will now return to the team’s #58 McLaren 650s GT3, rejoining Ben Barnicoat and Côme Ledogar for the third race of the International GT Challenge – the Suzuka 10 Hours.

Watson, Barnicoat and Ledogar have already proved themselves as a successful combination in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup. Having started on the front row at the 1000km Paul Ricard, they then led the majority of the race before an unlucky late-race penalty saw them come home with a third-place finish.

The Suzuka 10 Hours will mark Andrew’s third race in the 2018 International GT Challenge, having competed in the Bathurst 12 Hours in February and most recently the Spa 24 Hours. Andrew’s best result of the ITC came racing for YNA Autosport in a McLaren 650s GT3 at Bathurst where Andrew, Alexander West, Scott McLaughlin and Fraser Ross finished the race in 11th place overall and 5th in the Pro-Am class.

The 47th running on the Suzuka 10 Hours will take place on the iconic Suzuka GP circuit, Japan. The legendary figure-of-eight circuit is a favourite with drivers across the world and features some of the most challenging corners in the world of motorsport, such as The Esses, the high-speed 130R and the famous Spoon Curve.

Looking ahead to his debut in Japan, Watson is excited to race on the legendary track and hopes to collect a good result for the team.

“I’m extremely excited to be racing in this year’s Suzuka 10 Hours! I have always wanted to race on the Suzuka track, it looks like a highly demanding circuit but also a lot of fun so I can’t wait to try it out!”

“Having never raced there before, except on the simulator, it is going to be a challenge but one I’m ready for. We have a strong team and a strong car so there’s no reason why we can’t have a successful race and collect a good result in the ten hours!”

Image courtesy of Garage 59

Promising pace ends in misfortune for Watson

Andrew Watson’s weekend at the 24 Hours of Spa ended in misfortune after he and the #188 Garage 59 McLaren qualified on pole position in the AM Cup and were in contention for class victory before misfortune ended the team’s chances.

After being moved to the other side of Garage 59 in a hope of taking class victory in the AM Cup with Alexander West, Chris Harris, Chris Goodwin at the iconic 24 Hours of Spa, Andrew spearheaded the teams assault and were instantly looking on the pace through the first practice session of the week – ending it in 2nd place in their class and 38th overall out of 65 cars.

The race’s qualifying session saw four individual qualifying sessions for each driver, with the average taken to determine the team’s starting position for the twice around the clock race. Andrew was last in the #188 McLaren 650s GT3 and, with the car at its lightest, he did what he does best, recording another stellar qualifying session in the Blancpain GT Series.

The quickest driver once again for his team, Andrew’s 2:19.964 lap time cut down the team’s average and secured them pole position in the AM Cup for the start of the 24 Hours of Spa!

“The guys did a great job in qualifying, we managed to stay out of traffic and everyone was able to get a clear lap in. P37 overall, and on pole in class, is a great way to start the race but on the other hand, pole position does not mean too much in such a long race so we’ll need to stay on top for of our game for the 24 hours.”

With confidence high in the Garage 59 camp, after an impressive qualifying performance, Chris Harris got the team off to a great start as he held the lead and begun to pull away from the team’s AM Cup rivals. Alexander West and Chris Goodwin continued to keep the #188 McLaren at the front of their class and were looking like the car to beat for victory in the early stages of the race.

Andrew then took over driving duties for the first time in the 24 hours but halfway through his double stint behind the wheel, the team hit their first problem of the weekend as the damper broke on their McLaren. With the car having to come into the pits for repairs, a few laps were lost as the Garage 59 mechanics worked tremendously hard to get the car back up to racing standard.

On the hunt to retake the lead of their class, the Garage 59 squad were flying through the night and had managed to fight their way back up to second in class after a few hours of tough racing. However, the team’s hard work was all unravelled as the sun returned at the Ardennes.

At about 9am, the team were hit by an impatient professionally-run Ferrari who decided to take a big risk in the morning hours, sending it down the inside of the Garage 59 McLaren and resulting in contact between the two cars – ruining the #188 McLaren’s race.

Chris Harris brought the car back to the pits, where the team were able to look at the full extent of the damage. A broken rear wing and rear toe link meant the team lost eight laps to their rivals as the pit crew worked as hard as they could to get the car back out into the race.

With the whole team refusing to give up, the #188 McLaren was back out on the track running 5th in class and trying as hard as they could to close in the leaders. Making it into 4th position and with 4 hours to go, disaster struck the team once again.

The team were forced into the pits as the oil pump gave way in the 650s GT3 but the mechanics and team refused to give up. Managing to get the car out just before the end of the race, the team were able to take the chequered flag for the end of the race and score valuable points for their championship.

“Firstly, I’d like to say a huge thanks to Garage 59 and especially Alexander West as he is the reason I am here! 24 hour races are never easy and this was no exception. We had quite a few problems through the race but the team were fantastic and never gave up! I’m so happy for the team that they were able to take the finish and score good points for the AM championship as they can still win it heading it to Barcelona!”

“In terms of my personal performance, I was really pleased. I did some great laps in the race and especially in the dark which for me is important as it shows I can perform in the night as well as I can in the day. It’s been an amazing experience, we’ve had a brilliant time as a team and shown what we are all capable of doing.”

Andrew Watson confident of a good result at Spa 24

25th July 2018

Andrew Watson is in Belgium this week for the iconic Total 24 Hours of Spa and, teaming back up with Garage 59 in the McLaren 650S GT3, Andrew is confident the car still has race-winning potential after a career-best 3rd place finish at Paul Richard.

The Total 24 Hours of Spa takes place this week at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. The undulating 4.352-mile circuit is a stern test for both man and machine, with unpredictable weather just another challenge faced by the drivers over the course of the 24 hours.

The previous round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup saw Andrew have an inspired qualifying performance, securing provisional pole after his session and eventually qualifying in second place for the start of the race. Andrew and the team then lead five of the six hours in the Paul Ricard 1000km, but ultimately brought their 650s GT3 home just short of McLaren’s first Blancpain GT Series win since 2016 as they were forced to serve a late-race drive-through penalty – demoting them to 3rd.

A late change to the entry list for this weekend’s Blancpain GT has seen Andrew moved across to Garage 59’s Am Cup entry in attempt to push for class victory in the Ardennes countryside. Joining Alexander West, Chris Harris and Chris Goodwin, Andrew is confident the car has the pace to win.

“I think if you’d asked me before Ricard what the expectations for Spa was, it was probably to go for the long-haul and see where we end up but now, I’m completely confident, as we all are, that we actually have the pace to win it. There is no doubt we have the lineup to win our class which is always a good mindset to go into an event with.”

Andrew joins an already winning team, with West, Harris and Goodwin scoring Am Cup wins at Silverstone and Paul Ricard in the two most recent endurance round.

Andrew’s two trips to Spa 24 Hours haven’t ended the way he would have hoped, with the Strakka-run McLaren failing to reach the end in 2017 and 2016 saw a retirement after 208 laps with Garage 59. However, in a new class with new teammates and new tyres for this year’s event, Andrew believes he can have have a week to remember in Spa.

“The new tires this year, for me, are a lot better and, especially at the last race at Paul Ricard, the McLaren was brilliant, It gives us a lot of confidence for Spa and I’m really looking forward to it.”

“The balance in Monza and Silverstone was actually good, it’s just, to be honest, we lacked straight-line speed.The SRO worked with us on that and once we got that sorted, it really just came to life at Ricard. It was great for McLaren to be back at the sharp end. It’s still a great car so it deserves results.”

The week’s action commences on Thursday with the first practice session kicking off the race weekend at 10:45 (BST). Qualifying takes place on Thursday evening, with the four sessions starting at 19:50. Friday will then host the top-20 Super Pole shootout at 17:30, with Saturday’s 24 hour race getting underway at 15:30.

Quotes courtesy of Sportscar365

Image courtesy of Blancpain GT Series

Sprint Cup battle resumes for Andrew Watson

Andrew Watson will team up with his 3Y Technology team this weekend as the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup resumes at Misano with two hour-long races at the Italian circuit.

High on confidence, Andrew Watson heads to Misano this weekend on the back of an outstanding performance in the Endurance Cup at the Circuit Paul Ricard, which saw the 23-year-old finish in 3rd place to record his first overall podium in the Blancpain GT Series.

Competing in the Silver Cup this weekend in the BMW M6 GT3 with his French 3Y Technology squad, the class will see an expanded field this weekend, setting up an intriguing contest in which eight cars will fight for top spot. Andrew currently sits 4th in the Silver Cup standings for the Sprint Cup after scoring 30 points through four races this season.

Following several modification measures, the length of the ‘Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli’ amounts today to exactly 4,226 metres. The circuit features 16 corners, six left-handers and 10 right-handers. A layout that doesn’t offer much room for high-speed sections – with the longest straight measuring in at a length of just 656 metres.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Andrew is hoping to have a strong weekend in his BMW M6.

“I’m looking forward to this weekend. Misano is a track I have fond memories of after scoring my best result of the season in the Sprint cup there in 2017. After a great weekend in Paul Ricard, I’ll be looking to have more success this weekend and hope I can continue my good form in Italy.”

Track action in Misano starts on Friday with the first practice session at 15:20 (BST). Qualifying then takes place on Saturday at 12:50, followed by the weekend’s night race getting underway at 18:40. Sunday rounds off the action with the final race of the weekend at 13:00.

Podium celebrations for Andrew Watson at Paul Ricard

It was a weekend to remember for Andrew Watson at the 1000 kilometres of Paul Ricard as Andrew and the #58 Garage 59 McLaren qualified on the front row and led the majority of the race before eventually coming home in 3rd place at the 6-hour race – marking Andrew’s first overall podium finish in the Blancpain GT Series.

On the back of a successful weekend at Silverstone in the Endurance Cup, Andrew headed to Circuit Paul Ricard full of confidence after displaying some brilliant pace in his McLaren at the home of British Motorsport. 1000 kilometres of Circuit Paul Ricard marked the first night racing of the year, and the first race of the year lasting over 3 hours – a key race on the build-up to the highlight of the Endurance Cup season, the Spa 24 Hours.

Friday’s practice sessions saw Andrew, teamed up once again with Ben Barnicoat and Côme Ledogar in the #58 McLaren 650s GT3, get up to speed at the French circuit; finishing both the sessions inside the top-twenty places, Andrew and the team worked hard to find the perfect balance in the car prior to Saturday’s qualifying session.

Starting Saturday’s action with qualifying, Andrew was selected to drive the first of three qualifying segments and was the standout performer in the #58! Finishing his qualifying session with a 1:54.244 lap time, Andrew put the #58 Garage on provisional pole after a sensational lap time that remained as one of the quickest laps of the weekend – despite running on heavy fuel. Andrew’s teammates then went out for their qualifying laps and the team secured a front row start after their combined qualifying lap time of 1:54.374 left them in 2nd place!

“That was definitely one of my best ever qualifying performances – I nailed the lap! It always feels great to come in after one lap and know that you have gotten everything out of it. It’s a brilliant result for the team, to start the race from the front row, and for my personal performance it was a great feeling to be the quickest driver in the car again despite the heavy fuel!”

With the 6-hour race getting underway with Ben Barnicoat at the wheel of the #58 McLaren, Ben quickly jumped into the lead of the race at the rolling start and defended the position through the opening laps of the race. Stretching out a gap at the front of the field, the #58’s progress was hampered when Full Course Yellows were converted to safety cars, bunching the field back up and forcing Barnicoat in the #58 to manage the restart and redo all his hard work stretching out the gap at the front – a theme that persisted through the entire race.

As he pitted bang on the two-hour mark, Andrew then took over the controls of the #58 McLaren and produced a fantastic two-hour stint. Delivering consistent lap times, Andrew managed the tyres brilliantly and also continued to stretch out the #58’s lead at the front of the field to over twelve-seconds.

Driving duties were then given to Côme Ledogar for the final two hours and the team held the lead until the final hour of the race when a small mistake cost them dear. When the #58 came into the pits for their final stop of the race, a member of the Garage 59 pit crew was deemed to have not been behind the pitlane line before the car set off and the team were handed a drive-through penalty.

Despite falling down the order from the lead of the race, Côme delivered a strong recovery drive and managed to get the #58 McLaren back into the podium places before the end of the race as the team crossed the finishing line in 3rd place to collect their first podium finish of the 2018 season!

“Today’s been a great day, qualifying was fantastic and then in the race, the whole team did a brilliant job. We felt we were really unlucky with the penalty and thought the podium was too far away after the drive through but Côme had a great stint and got us back onto the podium.”

“I was really pleased with my stint, how I managed the tyres whilst still being quick on track. It’s a great result for the team and we’ve picked up some good championship points. This is the perfect buildup heading to Spa 24, so huge thanks to everyone at Garage 59 for their support and hard work this weekend. We’re now full of confidence heading to Spa because the car was brilliant all weekend.”

Andrew now returns to his 3Y Technology BMW M6 GT3 for the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup round at Misano (22nd – 24th June) before joining back up with his Garage 59 team for the Spa 24 Hours (26th – 29th July).

1000 kilometres of Paul Ricard next up for Watson

Andrew Watson heads to the Circuit Paul Ricard this week for the fifth meeting of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series and it promises to be the most exciting round yet, as the race stretches into the darkness at the French Venue.

Marking the third Endurance Cup round of the season, the 1000 kilometres race of the Circuit Paul Ricard will see Andrew and the Garage 59 team push for a strong result in France and with a longer-than-usual race distance comes the reward of additional points. The winners, this weekend, will take home 33 rather than the 25 usually awarded at Endurance Cup races, with 24 for the runners-up and 19 for third.

But, at this stage of the season, championship standings are not at the top of the agenda. As the final Endurance Cup round before the Total 24 Hours of Spa (26-29 July), the Paul Ricard event allows for crucial fine-tuning ahead of the most important race of the year. A strong result is still the main objective, but there is also considerable focus on uncovering information that could make the difference between glory and heartbreak at the Total 24 Hours of Spa.

Starting in daylight and finishing in the night just before midnight, the race will mark the first night-running of the season and will be perfect preparation for the 24 Hours of Spa for both man and machine.

After a good performance in the car at the previous round at Silverstone, Andrew is looking forward to this weekend and hopes to collect a good result.

“I’m excited to get back out on track this weekend after a good showing at Silverstone. Although we didn’t get the result we felt we had deserved at Silverstone, the pace felt really strong and that’s a good sign entering an important stage of the season.”

The weekend commences on Friday with free practice and pre-qualifying at 09:50 (BST) and 14:40 respectively. Saturday gets started with qualifying in the morning at 08:40, with the 1000 kilometres race starting at 16:45.

Positive weekend at Silverstone for Andrew Watson

Andrew Watson strung together an impressive performance in the Blancpain GT Series as he led the Garage 59 #58 McLaren to a 15th place finish at Silverstone in the second round of the Endurance Cup.

Joining Come Ledogar and Ben Barnicoat in the #58 McLaren for the second round of the Endurance Cup, the Garage 59 team got off to a productive start in Saturday’s practice sessions. Finishing pre-qualifying up in 10th place, Andrew was pleased with the start the team had gotten off to at Silverstone.

“Practice went really well, the team worked really hard to give us a good package. The car is feeling great and really competitive so that bodes well for the rest of the weekend. The series is so tight so it’s good to be in the mix so early on in the weekend.”

Sunday’s busy day of action started with qualifying, where all three drivers set a lap time in three sessions and the average lap time is worked out to determine the grid for the three-hour race.

After qualifying in the third session in Monza, normally the quickest, Andrew was rotated to drive in the first qualifying outing and instantly shone in the #58 McLaren. Recording a 1:57.810 lap time, Andrew put the team in 13th place after the first round of qualifying.

Following Andrew handing the driving duties over, the team encountered problems on their out-lap of qualifying two as the car picked up a puncture – setting the team back and leaving them with little time to record a time.

With all three drivers setting their respective lap times, the team qualified in 20th place overall with a 1:57.999 average lap time and with Andrew recording the fastest qualifying time in the team for the second race in a row despite qualifying first.

“Qualifying was a little disappointing as we knew we had the pace to be a bit further up. I was really pleased with my performance and could have gone faster, maybe P3 or P4, after going green (personal best) in the first two sectors before the red flag – but that’s part of the sport! Overall, to be inside the top-20 is a positive result so gives us a good foundation to work on in the race.”

In Sunday’s three-hour race, the team worked well despite the car feeling out of balance compared to Saturday’s session. Andrew and the team made solid progress through the race and kept the car out of any drama to bring it home five places better off in 15th place.

“It’s a bit frustrating to not pick up any points here at Silverstone, especially after the car was feeling so strong on Saturday. Seems like we lost some performance over the weekend so we’ll be working hard to find out what the issues were. At the end of the day, this is good practice for Spa 24 Hours and Paul Ricard where we’ll be working really hard to score maximum points. I’m pleased with my personal performance and how hard the team worked all weekend – it’s filled me with confidence as we enter a crucial part of the season!”

Next up for Andrew is the Circuit Paul Ricard (1st – 2nd June) for the third round of the Endurance Cup where he and his Garage 59 team will be looking to return to the points in the build-up to the Spa 24 Hours in two months’ time.

Andrew Watson drives forward with MB Partners

MB Partners are thrilled to announce the signing of Northern Irish driving talent, Andrew Watson, who becomes the latest addition to the London-based sports management company’s motorsport stable.

Twenty-three-year-old Andrew, from Donaghmore, Co.Tyrone, launched his racing career in 2010 in the Ginetta Junior Ireland Championship, making regular podiums through to 2011, when he joined the Douglas Motorsport team to race in the final two rounds of the Ginetta Junior Championship at Silverstone. He then stayed on to do his first full season in the Ginetta Junior Championship in 2012 – finishing the year in 5th place.

Since then, Andrew has progressed through the ranks of GT racing; racing in the Ginetta GT Supercup G55, Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup and, most recently, the international Blancpain GT Series since 2016. In January 2016 Andrew became part of the prestigious McLaren GT Academy and finished a credible 9th overall on his first visit to the famous Bathurst 12 hour race. Andrew took on the Bathurst challenge again this year finishing an excellent 5th in class. Andrew also made an appearance at the 2015 Sepang 12 Hours where he finished the endurance race in 1st place in class and 4th place overall in the McLaren 650s GT3 and took part in 4 races during the 2015 International GT Open series securing a pole position at Spa Francorchamps on his debut and a race victory at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Now racing in the Blancpain GT Series for his third season, the BRDC Rising Star is competing in the Sprint Cup with 3Y Technology in the BMW M6 GT3 and with Garage 59 in the McLaren 650s GT3 in the Endurance Cup. Andrew’s latest success came a fortnight ago as he took Silver Cup wins at Brands Hatch in the Sprint Cup.

Mark Blundell, MB Partners’ CEO, is delighted to see Andrew join the ranks and is looking forward to helping Andrew reach new heights in his career.

“Andrew is a very talented and motivated driver who has already proven himself in GT racing. His talent has already been spotted by the McLaren GT Academy at an early stage of his career. We are proud to represent him at MB Partners and look forward to supporting him achieve his goals over the coming years.”

Andrew Watson is excited to join MB Partners as he looks to further his racing career.

“I am delighted to join Mark Blundell Partners.  Mark has a proven track record in managing drivers careers and has an extensive global Motorsport network. I’m really excited about working with Mark and his team to further shape and develop my career.”

Watson to make his second Bathurst 12 Hour appearance

Scott McLaughlin will spearhead YNA Autosport’s Pro-Am entry in the 2018 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.

Supported by McElrea Raing, sharing the Opti-Coat McLaren 650S GT3 with 2016 Class B winner McLaughlin will be Australian GT race winner Fraser Ross, factory McLaren GT driver Andrew Watson,  and experienced Swedish racer Alexander West.

The well credentialed lineup complements the previously announced all-Pro lineup, providing YNA Autosport an opportunity to claim both outright and class victories.

After a successful 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, McLaughlin will make just his second appearance at the Bathurst 12 Hour, and his first at the wheel of a McLaren 650S GT3.

“I am really excited for my first attack at the Bathurst 12 Hour in Class A machinery,” said McLaughlin.

“We have a great line up to attack the Pro-Am class honours but also attack the outright order.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge and excited to be in a fantastic car like the McLaren with some great teammates.

“The 12 Hour is a perfect way to start my racing season and hopefully we can kick it off with some success!”

“After seeing some positive results in my in my first GT season last year I am absolutely pumped to head into my first 12 Hour endurance race at the iconic Mount Panorama,” added Ross, who competed with YNA Autosport throughout the 2017 Australian GT season.

“We have a very strong lineup and with the support of YNA Autosport and McElrea Racing, we are entering this very confident.

“The McLaren has proved time and time again its capabilities with its previous success around the world and particularly at Bathurst. I believe we will be force to be reckoned with for ProAm honours.”

Also poised to make his second Bathurst 12 Hour appearance is Andrew Watson, after being a member of McLaren’s 2016 Bathurst 12 Hour efforts.

A race winner in the International GT Open series and Class winner at the Sepang 12 Hours, Watson last year competed in the Blancpain GT Series.

“Going back to Bathurst is an amazing chance as we had a lot of speed in the McLaren in 2016, so I know the 650s GT3 is good around the Mountain,” said Watson.

“The 12 Hour is such a great race and I’m proud to be a part of it again.

“I already know Fraser and Alex, and I’m looking forward to teaming up with Scott as I know how handy these V8 drivers are after racing with Shane van Gisbergen in 2016 in Europe.”

Completing the lineup is the experienced Alexander West, who competed in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup in 2017, and finished third in the International GT Open series for McLaren with two wins and four other podium finishes.

The 2018 Bathurst 12 Hour marks the Swede’s first appearance in Australia, following previous experience in Asia.

“The Bathurst 12 Hour and Mount Panorama should be on the bucket list for anyone interested in endurance racing,” said West.

“So this is a dream come true and I’m really looking forward to racing at this famous track in Australia with YNA Autosport in the Mclaren 650S GT3.”

The McLaren 650S GT3 is one of the most successful sportscars of the modern era, winning both the Australian GT Championship and Australian Endurance Championship, along with the Bathurst 12 Hour, in 2016.

Internationally it has recorded championship success in the United States and Europe with victory in the Pirelli World Challenge and Blancpain Endurance Series respectively.

The twin-turbo V8 engine, developed in-house by McLaren, is mounted to a light-weight carbon-fibre chassis providing incredible power and handling.

It’s a car which has propelled McLaren back to the front of sportscar racing, where it proved a dominant force at the height of Can-Am competition in the late 1960s, and in the mid-1990s with victory at Le Mans courtesy of the McLaren F1.

The 2018 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour takes place on February 2-4, with live free-to-air television coverage on 7mate across Australia, and an online stream allowing fans across the world to follow the race as it unfolds.

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