Welcome to the latest news and inside track information on the 2015 Season. 
You can also follow Andrew on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus

Andrew Watson Blog

Read on

GARAGE 59 CONFIRMS WATSON FOR BLANCPAIN GT SERIES FINALE

Garage 59 are delighted to confirm the appointment of Andrew Watson for a one-off appearance in the #59 car during the Blancpain Sprint Series finale at Barcelona next weekend.

Following a successful year with fellow McLaren GT Academy Drivers Alex Fontana and Struan Moore competing in the Blancpain Endurance Series, Watson alongside his teammates demonstrated strong pace throughout the season. Andrew joins Martin Plowman for the final round of Blancpain Sprint Series where Garage 59 currently sit 4th in both team’s and driver’s standings for Sprint Cup, with Rob Bell second in Overall Driver’s title-hunt.

Andrew Watson replaces Côme Ledogar for the final round due to a calendar clash with International GT Open where Ledogar also races in a Garage 59 650SGT3 alongside Alexander West. Watson is relishing the challenge of his debut in Sprint Cup: “It’s a great opportunity to be given to work alongside Martin after a good season with Garage 59 in the Blancpain Endurance Series. I like the circuit, following a win there last year in the 650S GT3 so I am really looking forward to getting back on track there and ultimately doing what we can to help Rob win the Overall Driver’s championship. Massive thanks to Garage 59 for the opportunity.”

Garage 59 Team Manager Bas Leinders commented: “We are confident of a good result for the team next weekend with Watson on-board following his successful debut in Blancpain GT Series this year. Winning both Driver’s and Team’s Championships last weekend at the Nurburgring was a great result but it is important our team and the drivers do not become complacent; as we demonstrated last weekend the fight is not over until the chequered flag falls.”

The final round of the Blancpain GT Series (Sprint Cup) takes place at Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona on Sunday 2nd October in the format of two one-hour sprint races.

THE 650S GT3 FIGHTS HARD IN THE TOTAL 24 HOURS OF SPA

Seven examples of the McLaren 650S GT3 were in action over the weekend, taking part in the Total 24 Hours of Spa and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course round of the Pirelli World Challenge.  As a result of the challenging weekend, McLaren GT associated drivers and customer teams now lead the points tallies in seven of the standings associated with the two championships, including McLaren leading the Pirelli World Challenge Manufacturer Championship.

Andrew Watson _LemansFactory Drivers starred in the Ardennes Forest, as Rob Bell, Côme Ledogar and Shane van Gisbgergen in the #58 Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3 scored valuable points at the six-hour mark of the gruelling Spa 24 Hours to retain the lead in the Blancpain GT Series Drivers Championship for Bell, and Teams Championship for customer team Garage 59, as well as the Blancpain Endurance Cup Championships for all three drivers and the team. The trio led the race in the opening stages with Ledogar taking the the position with a bold move through the famous La Source / Eau Rouge section of the circuit, but dropped down the order to finish P32 after making heavy contact while negotiating backmarkers through the hours of darkness.

The other two McLarens in the race suffered similar bouts of bad luck. The #59 650S GT3 piloted by McLaren GT Academy Drivers Alex Fontana, Struan Moore and Andrew Watson all ran well – and as high as second at one point in the ultra-competitive 65-car GT field – but retired with accident damage after a head-turning 24-hour race debut performance.

McLaren P1™ GTR Driver Mentor Bruno Senna, alongside Duncan Tappy and ‘Pipo’ Derani in the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Team-liveried #60 650S GT3 meanwhile had a competitive showing in terms of pace, but suffered at the hands of other cars multiple times in the night which required several visits to the pits. This prevented a fight through the standings in the second half of the race, and the trio finished P40.

 

This article first appeared on McLaren GT

McLAREN RETURNS TO THE TOTAL 24 HOURS OF SPA

The McLaren 650S GT3 will return to the world-famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes Forest later this month as three examples line up to take on the 2016 Total 24 Hours of Spa – 28-31 July – run by McLaren GT customer team Garage 59. The regular Blancpain Endurance Cup driver line-of of Factory Drivers Rob Bell (GB), Côme Ledogar (FR) and Shane van Gisbergen (NZ) in the #58 car and Academy Drivers Alex Fontana (CH), Struan Moore (JE) and Andrew Watson (NI) in the iconic #59 will be joined by Bruno Senna (BR), Duncan Tappy (GB) and Luis Felipe ‘Pipo’ Derani (BR) in the third entry running as number #60.

The 650S GT3 made its 24 hours race debut at the headline event of the Blancpain GT calendar last year, securing a front row start and a hard-fought top 10 finish. Bell leads the overall Blancpain GT Series Drivers Championship with a 44-point margin, with wins at Monza and Paul Ricard with van Gisbergen and Ledogar in the Endurance Cup and, most recently, at the Nürburgring alongside Alvaro Parente in the Sprint Cup. Customer team Garage 59 is looking to build on this success, and to extend the points lead in the Blancpain GT Teams Championship. The Total 24 Hours of Spa sees points awarded at the six, 12 and 24 hour marks.

6794-10_2016_Blancpain_Endurance_Rd3-0729

McLaren GT Driver Academy trio of Alex Fontana, Struan Moore and Andrew Watson return to the #59 650S GT3 for the fourth round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, with each of them making their 24 hour race debuts. The young driver line-up has shown promise during the first half of the season with results and individual performances improving at each round.

The third 650S GT3 will be anchored by McLaren P1™ GTR Driver Mentor Bruno Senna, returning to the cockpit of the 650S GT3 for the first time competitively in 2016. The Brazilian ex-Formula 1 driver’s last race in a McLaren was a part of the team who claimed P10 at the 24 Hours of Spa last year. Senna will be joined by Garage 59 International GT Open race winner Duncan Tappy and 2016 Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours winner Luis Felipe ‘Pipo’ Derani in the #60 McLaren 650S GT3.

Commenting on the confirmed line-up ahead of the official 24 Hours of Spa test day, Andrew Kirkaldy, McLaren GT explained: ‘The 24 Hours of Spa has been a key race on the calendar for McLaren GT and our customer teams for the past six years, and with the 650S GT3 and the line-up of drivers for the 2016 assault, it is clear that there is a desire to not only race but challenge for the top positions. The race is arguably the toughest on the GT calendar, both in terms of the competiveness of the grid but also in terms of the grueling nature of the track and conditions, so it will be a true test, but one which the drivers and the cars are in as strong a position as ever.

‘The McLaren 650S GT3 has proven itself as the car to beat across the world this season in all championships and across all distances. With improvements on performance and reliability, and strong driver line-ups in each of the cars, it should be another stellar race befitting the iconic location.’

The 2016 Total 24 Hours of Spa commences at 16:30 local time (15:30BST), Saturday 30 July.

This article first appeared on McLaren

 

FACTORY DRIVER ROB BELL TAKES BLANCPAIN GT POINTS LEAD AFTER PAUL RICARD VICTORY

Victory for the McLaren 650S GT3 at the Paul Ricard 1000km sees McLaren GT Factory Driver Rob Bell lead the overall Blancpain GT Drivers Championship by 20 points. The race was won in dramatic fashion with Bell and fellow Factory Drivers Shane Van Gisbergen and Côme Ledogar taking the chequered flag after six hours with a 3.7s winning margin.

The race – which ran into the night in the south of France – was thrilling, with the #58 650S GT3, run by customer team Garage 59, overcoming its rivals late in the race to take its second win of the Blancpain Endurance Cup season. The win sees Bell, van Gisbergen and Ledogar top the Blancpain Endurance Cup Drivers Championship, and Garage 59 now leads the Teams Championship.

A hard-fought qualifying session saw van Gisbergen secure P5 for the 650S GT3 with a laptime of 1m 56.557s, just 0.214s off pole. The pace and intentions of the team were then immediately evident from the start of the race, as Bell began a charge to the front, climbing to P3 on the opening lap. He would continue pressing the leaders for the remainder of his first stint. Ledogar climbed aboard for the middle sector of the race, and maintained P3 with consistent lap times during his double stint before handing the car over to Bell once again as the sun set over Le Castellet.

As the final two hours of the six-hour race approached, van Gisbergen readied himself for a final charge, the Kiwi hoping for a repeat of his performance at Monza. After briefly dropping out of the top three after the pitstop, the Garage 59 crew made up for lost time, calling a tactical pit stop in the final 15 minutes of the race under a full-course yellow caution. The bold strategy move saw the #58 rejoin the circuit in a strong position, and moved into the lead in the closing stages. As the chequered flag dropped after six hours, van Gisbergen held on to take the second victory of the season for the 650S GT3 in the championship.

The second Garage 59 entry – the #59 650S GT3 – with the three McLaren GT Driver Academy drivers at the wheel also had a very promising outing, starting P27 and finishing P14. Alex Fontana, Struan Moore and Andrew Watson ran a well-managed strategy, and showed consistently strong pace to battle through the field.

In North America, Factory Driver Alvaro Parente continued his Pirelli World Challenge title push with two top six finishes in the #9 McLaren 650S GT3 run by customer team K-PAX Racing. Making his debut at the Road America circuit in Wisconsin, Parente fought hard with the leaders to secure valuable points and maintain his lead in the championship.

This article first appeared on McLaren GT

TOP 10 FINISH ON HOME SOIL KEEPS McLAREN GT FACTORY DRIVER ROB BELL IN BLANCPAIN TITLE HUNT

The #58 650S GT3 of customer team Garage 59 finished P6 in the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Cup at Silverstone to maintain Factory Driver Rob Bell’s Blancpain GT Series title hopes with six rounds remaining. There was further success for the 650S GT3 in Italy as customer team FFF Racing Team by ACM finished P2 in the inaugural round of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup at Imola.

Bell and fellow Factory Drivers Côme Ledogar and Shane Van Gisbergen started the three-hour race at Silverstone P12 after an extremely tight Qualifying session earlier in the day, before fighting through the field during the race to set up a close battle to the finish. Bell started in the #58 Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3 and in a similar fashion to his performance at Monza made up a lot of ground during the first hour of the race, handing over to Ledogar with the McLaren up to P7.

After slipping back to P8 during the round of stops, Ledogar fought hard through heavy traffic, claiming back P7 before the final hour. Van Gisbergen finished the race for the customer team, and in dramatic fashion made a gutsy move to grab a further position in the frantic closing minutes after a safety car period.

As the halfway point of the season approaches, Bell now sits second in the Blancpain GT Series Drivers standings for drivers competing in both the Sprint and Endurance Cups.

The second 650S GT3, shared by the three McLaren GT Academy Drivers Alex Fontana, Struan Moore and Andrew Watson, finished P22. Each of the young drivers – each in their debut season in the Blancpain Endurance Cup – contributed to climbing the order, overtaking 17 cars after starting P39 in a field of more than 50 GT3 cars.

The 650S GT3 also had success in Italy, with customer team FFF Racing Team by ACM finishing on the podium with P2 in the first ever Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup race. The brand new ACO-run series offers the competitors an invitation to race in the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans as part of the prize for winning the championship.

Japanese driver Hiroshi Hamaguchi qualified the car P4 and in the race charged through to P2 on the opening lap. Hamaguchi then spent the rest of his hour-long stint in the 120-minute race applying pressure to the race leader. At the mid-race stop, the 650S GT3 held position, and British driver Adrian Quaife-Hobbs pushed hard to close the gap to the leader. Despite reducing the gap, the young Brit was unable to challenge for the lead as time ran out, crossing the line P2 to collect silverware in his first race for the team.

This article first appeared on McLarenGT

McLAREN 650S GT3 TAKES WINS IN THREE COUNTRIES

McLaren GT Factory Drivers Rob Bell, Côme Ledogar, Shane van Gisbergen and Alvaro Parente claimed victories in Europe and North America as the 650S GT3 enjoyed a strong weekend. The race-focused version of Super Series model secured a dramatic win at the opening round of the 2016 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup in Monza, Italy, a double podium in the Pirelli World Challenge at Barber Motorsports Park in the USA and pole position and a win at the first weekend of the International GT Open championship in Estoril, Portugal.

In the all-Factory Driver line-up #58 McLaren 650S GT3 of customer team Garage 59, Bell started the three-hour race P16 alongside the all-McLaren GT Academy Driver trio of Alex Fontana, Struan Moore and Andrew Watson in P15. The experienced Brit quickly fought through the pack, climbing as high as P3 during his stint, before a quick pit stop by the team vaulted the car into the lead with Ledogar aboard. Frenchman Ledogar – making his competitive debut as a Factory Driver with McLaren GT – drove faultlessly through traffic and retained the lead against one of the most competitive GT grids, before van Gisbergen took over for one of the most exciting and closest finishes the championship has ever seen.

During the final stint of the race, the rapid van Gisbergen defended the lead as he negotiated back-markers around the historic 3.6-mile Italian circuit. As the chequered flag fell after 96 hard-fought laps and three hours of racing, the New Zealand-born driver brought the #58 650S GT3 home to secure the top step of the podium with a winning margin of just 0.341s, and score the team its first win in the Championship.

In the United States, fellow Factory Driver Alvaro Parente enjoyed a successful weekend at the wheel of the 650S GT3. Parente, driving for customer team K-PAX Racing, won Round 6 of the Pirelli World Challenge on Saturday, and finished second on Sunday morning in Round 7 at the challenging Barber Motorsports Park circuit in Alabama. The results place Parente firmly in the running for the Drivers’ Title.

A third win for the 650S GT3 was secured at the opening weekend of the International GT Open, as customer team Garage 59 enjoyed further success in the second race at Estoril in Portugal. Kevin Estre and Alexander West secured pole position in the #88 650S GT3, and the French-Swedish pair looked set for a convincing victory until a misjudged overtake by a competitor ended the charge on the final lap. Charging to the line, the #59 650S GT3 of Michael Benham and Duncan Tappy reacted quickly to the incident with the British pair taking the lead in another dramatic race finish.

Commenting on the result at Monza, McLaren GT Factory Driver Côme Ledogar explained: ’It is a dream come true to win on my debut for McLaren as a Factory Driver, and even more so at a place as special as Monza. Garage 59 did a fantastic job all weekend and didn’t put a foot wrong through the race. The work by the pitcrew which saw us jump the leaders was a key moment for us, so credit must go to them. I’m also really thankful for the job my teammates did during the race – Rob (Bell) made a great start, fighting through the pack, and Shane put on a stunning display of defensive driving at the end. The car was perfect and in my stint I just had to keep it clean. I can’t wait to visit Silverstone next month and continue our title challenge.’

This article first appeared on McLarenGT

McLAREN GT FACTORY DRIVERS CONFIRMED FOR BLANCPAIN ENDURANCE AND SPRINT SERIES WITH GARAGE 59

The McLaren GT Factory Driver line up of Rob Bell, Côme Ledogar, Alvaro Parente and Shane van Gisbergen will join forces with the drivers in the recently announced McLaren GT Driver Academy as part of bold plans by customer team Garage 59 to contest the Blancpain Endurance Series and Blancpain Sprint Series. The team will take part in a 10-date calendar visiting some of the most iconic circuits in Europe.

Bell (UK), Ledogar (FR) and van Gisbergen (NZ) will contest the Blancpain Endurance Series alongside McLaren GT Academy Drivers Andrew Watson (NI), Struan Moore (JE) and Alex Fontana (CH). The six drivers will join the British-based team and share two McLaren 650S GT3 racers in arguably the most competitive GT3 championship globally. The five-date Series calendar commences in Monza, Italy (23-24 April) and also includes the famous Total 24 Hours of Spa.

Alongside these ambitious plans, Garage 59 has also confirmed entry into the Blancpain Sprint Series with the 650S GT3. Bell returns to the Series following a strong season in 2015, and the 36 year old Brit will share driving responsibilities for the five-event European calendar with Parente. The driver pairing scored a podium on the competitive debut of the 650S GT3 at the Gulf 12 Hour in 2014.

To support the activities on track throughout the season, customer team Garage 59 has also confirmed the appointment of key staff from McLaren GT including Sporting Manager Bas Leinders. Acting as Team Manager throughout the season for the Blancpain GT Series, Leinders will work with the team on all Blancpain Endurance and Sprint Series races bringing strategic and key racing expertise to the pitwall.

Andrew Kirkaldy, Managing Director, McLaren GT

‘The driver line-up in place with Garage 59 highlights the intentions the team has for the season. With a mixture of experience and exciting young talent in the roster of Factory and Academy Drivers, and key engineering and strategic support on the pitwall, the team is well-placed to be a true contender in the championship, building on the strong debut season for the 650S GT3 last year. Working closely with the team throughout the season ahead, and with valuable feedback available from the drivers in real-world race environments, it will also help us improve and develop the car further, benefitting all customer teams globally.’

This article first appeared on McLarenGT

McLAREN 650S GT3 SECURES HISTORIC CLEAN SWEEP ON LIQUI MOLY BATHURST 12 HOUR DEBUT

Andrew Watson Bathurst 12hour

The 2016 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour has been won by the McLaren 650S GT3 of customer team Tekno Autosports in one of the hardest fought battles in the history of the event. On its debut outing at the iconic Mount Panorama, the 650S GT3 claimed the clean sweep over the course of the weekend with pole position, fastest lap, overall race win and a new lap record. The trio of Alvaro Parente, Shane Van Gisbergen and Jonathon Webb triumphed in the battle of strategies which saw five different manufacturers lead the race over the 12 hours.

A record-breaking qualifying session saw the four examples of the 650S GT3 qualify within the top six, with pole position in the Pro-Am class for customer team Objective Racing and overall pole position and a new lap record for Van Gisbergen and the Tekno Autosports team. Starting in the dark, the race set off at a quick pace with Van Gisbergen’s #59 650S GT3 retaining the lead and setting a strong pace in the opening stint. From here, the racing built on the excitement and expectations shown in the qualifying, and ensured the crowds were kept guessing right up until the chequered flag fell.

In clear air and with no traffic, Van Gisbergen opened up a strong lead in his opening stint, setting a new official course lap record of 2m 01.567s. The pitstop strategy saw the #59 650S GT3 maintain a top six position over the following few hours, with Factory Driver Parente and Tekno team owner Webb both ran consistently quick laps as the temperature increased. An electrical systems reset briefly brought the sprint to the flag to a halt on the start / finish straight, but the car was quickly back up and running with minimal time lost. The hard-charging second stint by Parente saw the Portuguese driver in the slipstream of the podium positions, and Webb maintained position before handing over to Van Gisbergen in P4 for the final stint. A well-calculated strategy call from the pitwall optimised the various Safety Car periods and a late drive through penalty, and the final call for fuel ensured that minimal time was lost and ensured the #59 lost the least amount of time, leapfrogging the leaders as they were forced to stop for fuel to ensure they would reach the finish. As the clock reached 12 hours, Van Gisbergen managed the gap to the chasing pack without taking any risks, crossing the line with a winning margin of 1.276 seconds.

All four of the 650S GT3s were in contention at various points, with the #60 car of Bell, Davison and Watson running P3 before the charge was brought to an unforced end after sustaining damage when one of the chasing pack misjudged an overtaking manoeuvre. The damage was quickly repaired by the Tekno Autosport pitcrew, and despite losing four laps to the leaders, the team managed to recover to finish P9 overall.

The two 650S GT3 Pro-Am entries both led the highly competitive class with Objective Racing pushing for the overall race lead with the #11 car as the sun rose over the mountain. Contact with the barrier brought an early end to the team’s race in but not before showing the true potential of a well set up car around the 6.213km circuit. The Darrell Lea / Keltic Racing #37 650S GT3 also proved itself to be a contender for the overall podium, running as high as second. With experience of the track and racing a McLaren at the Bathurst 12 Hour previously, the trio of father and son Tony and Klark Quinn alongside Craig Baird ran a clean race and bold strategy to build a four lap advantage in the Pro-Am class before an unforced error pushed the car off track and unable to rejoin.

The result, at one of the world’s toughest endurance events, marks the continued success for the 650S GT3 which has become a true contender at the highest levels of GT racing across the world.

  • Pole position in Pro and Pro-Am categories for the first 12 Hour GT endurance race of the year
  • Victory and fastest lap for the 650S GT3 on its debut outing at Mount Panorama
  • Official race lap record of 2m 01.567s set by Shane Van Gisbergen with Tekno Autosports

Andrew Kirkaldy, Managing Director, McLaren GT

‘A hugely positive result for all our customer teams here, and a great result for McLaren. A huge congratulations has to go to the Tekno team and each of the drivers for achieving the clean sweep of pole, fastest lap and the race win. On top of that, the official race lap record and the distance record with 297 laps completed, so not a bad first outing for the 650S GT3 and for the first event with Tekno and McLaren GT working together. 

It was a great performance by each of the four cars and the drivers involved, and there were points where it looked like each of them was in with a chance of winning the race. Luff [Objective Racing] and Quinn [Darrell Lea] were both leading the Pro-Am category when they were forced to retire, and the recovery and race pace of the second Tekno car was clear to see. On another day, who knows what could have happened.’

Jonathon Webb, Team Owner, Tekno Autosports

‘Winners of the Bathurst 12 Hour – that is something that will take a little while to sink in. It is a great result for McLaren and massive for Tekno, especially as it was our debut outing together. We faced some real challenges over the course of the weekend, but we pulled together and I am really proud of the guys who have worked faultlessly to achieve this result. Any endurance race is a true challenge, and it is not an easy race to win first time out – you just have to look at the quality of the competition and how close the racing was from the first to the last minute.’

This article first appeared on McLarenGT

Contact Us

Get in touch with us!