The first two Sprint Cup rounds of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season took place at Brands Hatch this weekend. Running on the full Grand Prix circuit, both of Sunday’s one-hour sprint races were action-packed, but it was Race 2 that delivered the goods for Garage 59 when Miguel Ramos and Dean Macdonald took the #188 McLaren 720S GT3 to a third place podium finish.
On Sunday morning it was Ethan Simioni who took the wheel of the #159 Silver Cup entry for the start of Race 1 after qualifying the car in sixth place in class and 14th overall. Miguel Ramos was further back in 24th, which was fourth place in Pro-Am, after encountering gearbox problems during Qualifying on Saturday.
Race 1 started with a bang when four cars went off at the entrance to Paddock Hill Bend, the first corner on the first lap! Luckily the Garage 59 McLarens avoided the drama and once the Safety Car pulled in, six laps later, the race got underway.
Ramos was soon regaining the positions lost in Qualifying and when the pit window opened he was in third place in Pro-Am. In the #159 McLaren, Simioni stayed out until just before the pit window closed as he was making such good progress on track.
With all the pit stops completed, Dean Macdonald had slipped back to fourth in Pro-Am in the #188 after a slight delay in the pits. The Pro-Am battle was fierce and he found himself in a scrap for second in the closing stages of the race but just couldn’t make a move stick in the time remaining. He crossed the line fourth in class.
Manuel Maldonado, having taken the wheel of the #159 McLaren, put in a determined drive and managed to gain another class position, finishing fifth in Silver Cup.
Race 2 got underway with two formation laps as an earlier shower had changed the track conditions. Both Garage 59 McLarens got a clean getaway and Maldonado had already moved from sixth to fourth in the Silver Cup class by the end of the first racing lap. Macdonald managed to hold position for the #188 at the start so both cars were running fourth in class until the pit stops.
Once everyone had completed their pit stops the Garage 59 McLarens remained fourth in their respective classes. Overtaking can be treacherous at Brands Hatch with its slippery wet grass and barriers close to the track in some areas – because it's a proper old school racing circuit – so it looked like the positions would remain until the end. Ramos had other ideas though and made a move on the Ferrari running third in Pro-Am, snatching the final podium position!
Despite his cracking pace, Simioni was unable to reach third in Silver before the flag fell, crossing the line in fourth but the Canadian has his sights firmly set on the podium for the coming rounds.
“Considering where Manuel and I started, we had a very good finish to the weekend,” said Simioni. “We had a car that was capable of a podium and we were almost there, we just needed a little more time. We’ve built some solid foundations now and I believe we can push forward to get the top results in the next couple of races. I think the whole team can be proud of their efforts this weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do at Magny Cours in two weeks’ time.”
Before the next Sprint Cup round of GT World Challenge Europe, the team’s focus turns to the Silverstone 500, the headline race of the British GT Championship, which takes place next weekend. Alexander West will be joined in the #88 McLaren by McLaren works driver, Marvin Kirchhöfer. The three-hour race gets underway on Sunday (8 May) at 11:30hrs BST.