August 1, 2018 Michael Pearce

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.”

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