The 2019 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup got off to an eventful start at Monza in Italy today. With heavy rain falling before the three-hour race, the drivers had to do battle on a fast but slippery race track, taking a gamble on tyre choice at every pit stop.
At the chequered flag, the #59 Aston Martin, Garage 59’s PRO class entry, crossed the line in ninth place (7thin PRO class), which was the highest finishing position for the new Aston Martin Vantage GT3. In the AM class, Chris Goodwin crossed the line in the #188 Aston Martin he shares with Alexander West to take the final place on the AM class podium.
The race started behind the Safety Car as the conditions were unsafe for almost 50 GT3 cars to hit turn one at Monza flat out. Once it pulled in the race was on and the first stint can only be described as bruising for Jonny Adam who started the race in the #59 Aston Martin. After being passed off the track and hit twice, the Scot was in 15thplace when he pitted to hand over to Andrew Watson. The team gambled on sending Watson out on slick tyres while the track was still damp. He kept it neat, tip-toeing around and was just starting to enjoy a much drier track when the Safety Car came out again and took away his advantage.
When Côme Ledogar took the wheel of #59 for the final hour the Aston Martin was in 23rdposition. The team played it safe and put him back onto wet tyres as it was starting to rain again and this decision paid dividends. Ledogar crossed the line in ninth place overall, crucially ahead of all the other Aston Martin Vantage GT3s.
“This race was a difficult one to call because of the weather,” said Ledogar. “When I got in the car we knew it was likely to be dry at the end so we went for the most consistent tyre choice, in terms of tread and pressures. We stayed strong and most importantly we stayed on track when others were having problems. Now we know where we are relative to the competition and it is good to see that Garage 59 are strong contenders.”
The Garage 59 #188 Aston Martin was running a two-man driving squad this weekend so Alexander West had his hands full, taking on a double stint. He was making great progress until he was hit less than half an hour into the race and had to wait to be recovered from the gravel trap. From then on #188 was in fightback mode and between West and later Chris Goodwin they propelled the Vantage GT3 to third place in the AM class.
“It’s great to pick up a trophy at the first race of the season,” said West. “Considering it was such an eventful race and the push I got into the gravel, the end result is much better than I expected it to be! The new Vantage GT3 is a great car and the whole team, and of course my team mate, did a great job today.”
The next race for the Garage 59 team is at Silverstone on 12 May.