Andrew Watson narrowly missed out on securing a debut podium at Silverstone in the opening round of the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship after coming home in fourth position in the LMGTE Am class.
Making his FIA WEC debut at the 4 Hours of Silverstone, Andrew joined his new team-mates Mike Wainwright and Ben Barker in the Gulf Racing #86 Porsche 911 RSR for the opening round of the 2019/20 season.
In the opening practice session of the weekend, Andrew’s debut WEC campaign got off to an impressive start. Bringing together all of his previous experience that he has had in different series at Silverstone, Andrew set a lap time of 1:58.669s which was only a tenth off teammate Ben Barker’s quickest time.
The practice sessions continued to bring good progress for the team and in FP3, the trio was sixth fastest in the LMGTE Am class as they continued to develop the car to the demands of the British circuit.
After the positive steps made throughout Friday and Saturday morning, qualifying was more challenging for the #86 Porsche. Mike and Ben were on qualifying duties and, despite valiant efforts from the Gulf Racing outfit, they had to settle for ninth position.
Knowing that the Sunday was a new chapter in their weekend, Andrew headed into the race optimistic of a strong result. Watching on as Mike handled the opening stint of the four-hour race, Andrew stepped into the car just as the heavens opened and the skies above Silverstone were dark grey. Joining the field in seventh position, Andrew was determined to make up some ground to his rivals out in front.
Prior to Silverstone, Andrew had only completed a very limited number of laps in the #86 Porsche 911 RSR. Despite this, Andrew lapped incredibly well in the challenging wet weather to maintain position in the first stint and then to progress to second.
Andrew showed that he was not afraid to attack in the rain, closing the gap to the competitors in front before passing a car on the inside of Luffield as the rain continued to come down.
At the end of his stint, Andrew had kept the car in a strong position over his 41 laps at the wheel to be second in class in the car when he handed duties over to Ben.
The car continued to run confidently in second place until the team were forced to pit to refuel with merely 10-minutes left on the clock. Despite a quick stop by the Gulf Racing crew, the #86 cars rejoined the field in fourth place where it crossed the line just two laps later.
After an intense four-hours of racing, Andrew finished his home race in fourth position and scored his first FIA WEC points.
“On the balance of things, I am happy with my first weekend in the championship,” Andrew said. “I had a lot to learn and I am happy with how I performed, especially in the rain! It is a bit gutting for everyone not to grab a podium but also a big confidence boost for us that we can challenge at the front. Our goal now is to develop and make sure we are in that position again.
“It was an amazing experience for me to be part of such a big event so close to home. I cannot wait to get to the next race in Japan and do everything we can to challenge for the win. Thanks to the whole Gulf Racing team for this opportunity and to my sponsors, who without, I would not be in this position to show what I can do!”
Andrew’s next race will take him to Fuji, Japan, where a longer race of six hours will present an exciting challenge for the Gulf Racing team on the 6th October.