After qualifying in the top eight and running in second place, the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup 1,000km of Paul Ricard ended in heartbreak for Andrew Watson and his Garage 59 team-mates as an engine issue forced them into retirement mid-way through the race.
The weekend had started well, with the #59 team of Andrew, Jonny Adam and Côme Ledogar in good spirits after the disappointment of Silverstone where the team suffered from a DNF. The Friday practice session at the 3.63-mile French circuit started in good fashion, with the team just 0.910 seconds off of the front runner as they ended the practice in 13th place.
When the time came for qualifying, the trio was even stronger in their Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3. Andrew handled the first part of the session and set an ultra-competitive time of 1:53.536, putting Andrew and the #59 team in third place. With all three stints complete and an average time of 1:53.519s, Andrew and co slotted into seventh position out of a total of 49 entrants for the start of the 1,000 kilometre race.
When the race came on Saturday evening, Jonny Adam was the first to take his stint. He had an excellent start to the six-hour endurance race and was in P5 after 30 minutes of racing - making up positions from the line in an exciting opening to the race.
After the changeover, it was Andrew's turn to make his mark on the race. He worked his way up from 13th to fourth, and the podium runners were less than 20 seconds in front. Andrew fought hard in an extremely strong field, and he performed numerous overtakes around the 15-turn circuit to get himself and the team up to second position in a fantastic stint. Doing well to hold off the pressure from behind, the #59 team were running strong until heartbreak struck.
With Andrew running in such a strong position, the car developed an engine issue and it began to misfire. Andrew and the team tried to manage the situation but to no avail with the problem getting increasingly worse lap-by-lap. After being in contention for a podium result, the team was forced to retire.
“I’m gutted we had to retire,” Andrew Watson said. “Our strategy was really working well and we were in the fight for second place. It was shaping up to be a great battle and the car felt great.
“Then we developed a misfire which steadily got worse and we eventually had to stop. The team did an amazing job and worked some long hours after Silverstone to put us back on the grid and it was great to be running up the front for them!”
The next round for Andrew and the #59 team will be the calendar highlight - the Total 24 Hours of Spa - which takes place on 27-28 July.