Garage 59 got the Covid-delayed GT racing season underway in style today, winning the Pro-Am class of the GT World Challenge Europe race at Imola in Italy. It was the #188 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Alexander West, Chris Goodwin and Jonny Adam that took the win after a three-hour race that was interrupted by numerous caution periods.
The #159 Vantage of Andrew Watson and Valentin Hasse-Clot was heading for a win in the Silver class before Hasse-Clot was spun off the track. The Frenchman recovered to second place, earning Garage 59 its second podium of the weekend.
The #159 Aston Martin started the race from second place in the Silver class in the hands of Watson and Hasse-Clot, while the #188 was fifth in the fiercely-contested Pro-Am category where just two tenths of a second separated the top five cars.
Both Garage 59 Vantages made a good start to the three-hour race but with the opening hour peppered with caution periods, the main action began at the first pit stop. Watson dived in from second place in the Silver class and a super smooth stop from the Garage 59 crew got him back out in position. The Pro-Am #188 Vantage in the hands of West rolled the dice and stayed out for another lap. West had already gone from sixth to fourth in class in the opening laps and this pit stop gained the #188 another two places in the pits, as Chris Goodwin took over the driving duties.
By the halfway mark, Watson was busy battling a Lexus for the silver class lead and Goodwin set off in pursuit of the Pro-Am leader who then got a drive through, leaving Chris to breeze through into the lead.
With one hour to go the #188 had Adam at the wheel in first place, while Hasse-Clot started his stint in second before taking a decisive Silver class lead. All the team needed was a quiet, drama-free run to the end.
Bang on cue, with just 30 minutes to go, Hasse-Clot was rudely spun out at the Variante Alta Chicane, dropping right down to third in class. He kept his head though and even managed to fight his way through to second place before the chequered flag fell.
Finishing first in class and 14th overall, Jonny Adam was happy with the result for the team: “I’m very happy with that. A victory in Pro-Am and almost a win in Silver. There’s actually not a lot to say as the car ran like clockwork all weekend, the team did everything right and Chris and Alex drove exceptionally well throughout. It’s good to get points on the board for the championship. It’s a shortened championship with just four races so you need to score every time, which makes this the perfect result. We go to the Nürburgring next and that should suit the Vantage GT3 well so I’m feeling positive.”
Andrew Watson was pragmatic about losing the Silver class win, as he knows the chance will come for #159: “A brilliant team result today. It could’ve also been a win for us but it’s really encouraging that we are competitive. Starting at the sharp end is the perfect way to begin a new season. Valentin did an amazing job. He was spun out by another car when he was in the lead but he kept his head and climbed a position with just a couple of laps to go. The Vantage GT3 ran beautifully this weekend and the team really went the extra mile for us. They worked really hard on all the little details over the off season and here we are with a double podium.”
The next round of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup takes place at the Nürburgring in Germany on September 6th.