Alexander West, Miguel Ramos and Henrique Chaves steered the #188 McLaren 720S GT3 to a second place podium finish at the Paul Ricard 1000kms on Saturday. The second Endurance Cup round of the 2022 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS looked like it would produce the first endurance win of the season for Garage 59 but a technical issue in the closing laps forced Henrique Chaves into second place on the final lap of the six-hour race.
Despite losing the win, Miguel Ramos, who races the #188 McLaren in both the Endurance and Sprint Cups, remains in the lead of the overall Pro-Am Drivers’ Championship standings.
A brilliant performance in Qualifying from West, Ramos and Chaves put the #188 McLaren on the Pro-Am pole position for the start of the race. Lining up just ahead of them, in eighth place in the ultra-competitive Silver Cup class, was the #159 McLaren of Nicolai Kjærgaard, Manuel Maldonado and Ethan Simioni.
When all 53 GT3 cars rolled across the line to start the six-hour race it looked like a motorway during morning rush hour but at full speed, five abreast into Turn 1. Unfortunately, in a congested mid-field, Simioni was left with nowhere to go when a car in front of him was spun around. The resulting broken radiator meant it was game over before it had begun for the #159 McLaren.
In the sister #188 McLaren, Ramos had a clean start, gaining a couple of positions and holding on to the Pro-Am class lead. West continued the good work in the second hour, maintaining the lead before handing back to Ramos again. The #188 led the Pro-Am runners for the majority of the six-hour race, apart from a challenge as darkness fell from the #52 Ferrari.
After running like clockwork for so long it looked like Henrique Chaves would have an enjoyable run to the flag but a technical issue started to affect the steering of the McLaren in the closing laps. Chaves held on for as long as he could but the lead slipped away on the final lap and he cruised to a halt as soon as he crossed the finish line.
Second place comes with good points so the team will bank those and return to the GT World Challenge in just two weeks’ time at Zandvoort.
The Paul Ricard 1000kms was just the beginning of a two-week French adventure for Garage 59. The team travelled north overnight to get to the Official Test Day for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is already underway.
The two McLaren 720S GT3s have the weekend off as the team is racing a Ferrari 488 GTE at Le Mans under the “Inception Racing with Garage 59” banner. Alexander West has been joined in the #59 GTE Am class Ferrari by 2021 GTE Pro class Le Mans winner and ex-Garage 59 driver, Côme Ledogar and reigning Porsche Carrera Cup France Champion, Marvin Klein.
After today’s test, the track action gets back underway on Wednesday afternoon ahead of Qualifying Practice that night. The 90th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans gets underway on Saturday 11 June at 16:00 CEST.