Garage 59 entered a McLaren 720S GT3 into the Silverstone round of the British GT Championship to take advantage of extra competitive running with what is still a new car to the team. Progress was swift and the final stages of the Silverstone 500 were a fast-paced scrap between the team’s #88 McLaren in the hands of Marvin Kirchhöfer and the winning Lamborghini, with Kirchhöfer crossing the line just half a second shy of the win.
Qualifying on Saturday was tough for the team and the combined times of Kirchhöfer and Alexander West put the #88 McLaren in 10th place on the grid, right in the middle of the GT3 pack. It would be crucial to avoid the pushing and shoving that often happens in the mid pack at the start of the race.
West got away well at the start, making up a couple of places before all hell broke loose at Club corner with cars ahead of him running into trouble. He avoided the drama and came through in third place, matching the times of the two cars ahead of him.
He pitted from third to hand over to Kirchhöfer, who set off at a blistering pace to try to gain an advantage before the cars ahead pitted. Once all the frontrunners had completed their stops, Kirchhöfer was in second place, and he had posted the fastest lap of the race in the process.
With one hour and 20 minutes left on the clock, the #72 Lamborghini pitted, leaving Kirchhöfer to take the lead before handing the McLaren back over to West.
West put in another strong stint, holding on to second throughout his run and the hope was to again jump the Lamborghini in the pit stops. It was close but when West and Kirchhöfer made the final switch, the German rejoined the race behind the Lamborghini of Mitchell and to win the race he would have to hunt him down and pass him.
The Mitchell-Lamborghini / Kirchhöfer-McLaren combinations were so evenly matched that on the penultimate lap of the race they set exactly the same lap time of 1m:59.081s! The only chance would be if Mitchell made a mistake or another car got in his way. Neither happened so it was a win for the Lamborghini and second place for the Garage 59 McLaren, just 0.5 seconds shy at the chequered flag!
“That wasn’t easy,” said Kirchhöfer. “It was super tight on the pit exit at the final stop and unfortunately he (Mitchell) just had a better run. I tried to find an opportunity in the traffic but there was no chance! It's a good result for us after yesterday’s qualifying result; of course we would have loved to make it a first place but I think we can all be happy with second.”
“We always want to win, of course, but we are very happy with second place today,” said West. “Yesterday if someone had offered me second place I would have grabbed it without any hesitation as we were disappointed with qualifying. I want to thank the team for their hard work this weekend. We managed to unlock some performance on Saturday night and enjoyed some great race pace today. We’ve all really enjoyed this weekend; it has been a fantastic event.”
Next up for the team are the next two Sprint Cup rounds of GT World Challenge Europe, which take place in just a few days’ time at Magny Cours in France.