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Leaving France with a Pro-Am podium and the championship lead

Garage 59 continues to lead the GT World Challenge Europe Pro-Am Championship after taking a podium finish at the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000kms. It was the #188 Aston Martin Vantage of Alexander West, Chris Goodwin and Jonny Adam that took third place in the Pro-Am class at the end of the six-hour race at Le Castellet.

Valentin Hasse-Clot, Alex MacDowall and Nicolai Kjærgaard had an arduous time in the #159 Vantage as they had to contend with a hard to handle car due to front splitter damage early on in the race.

The team’s performance in Saturday morning’s Qualifying session was faultless. With grid positions set from the aggregate fastest times from each of the three drivers in each car, it is vital that every driver has a good run. A thrilling session resulting in pole position in both the Silver and Pro-Am classes for the Garage 59 Aston Martins.

The performance of the drivers of the #159 Vantage was so strong that their Silver class pole position was also ninth place overall from the 47 cars that took the start.

Hasse-Clot took the start in the #159 Vantage and held onto the Silver class lead throughout the first hour of the race. In the #188, Goodwin dropped to second but only when a Pro-Am class challenger straight-lined a corner. They handed over the driving duties to MacDowall and West at the start of the second hour with West starting a strong double stint where he held onto second in Pro-Am and MacDowall also holding second but in the Silver class.

When sunset arrived at the halfway mark of the race, Kjærgaard was halfway through a double stint in the #159 Vantage, still running second in class. In the #188 Vantage it was time for Jonny Adam to jump in.

Remarkably the race stayed green for the first four hours but as darkness fell, so did the first Full Course Yellow. It couldn’t have been more badly timed for the #188 crew.

Once the race got back underway, Goodwin was in the #188 Aston Martin and MacDowall was back onboard the #159, both running in third place in their respective classes. For the final hour they handed back over to Adam and Hasse-Clot. Unfortunately for Jonny the #188 was too far adrift of the first and second placed Pro-Am runners so despite a spirited final hour, he crossed the line in third place. The #159 was now really struggling and Hasse-Clot could only hang on until the end, finishing ninth in the Silver class; a result hardly befitting the pace shown in Qualifying.

“As we continue to develop the Garage 59 team we approached this race very well prepared and our strong practice and qualifying pace reflected that,” said Goodwin. “However, it’s the race that matters and our race pace wasn’t quite as strong. The #188 Vantage took a bit of a beating and finally the timing of our penultimate stop under a Full Course Yellow cost us dearly. In the end we are disappointed with a podium position, which reflects the team’s high expectations. You can’t win them all but we enter every race trying to do so.

“The Silver car demonstrated equally strong pace in the run up to the race itself and pole in its class was a great performance from all three drivers,” he continued. “When you put a Silver car that far up the grid the racing is fierce and the lightest of contact on top of the aggressive kerbs here inflicted some damage to the car’s front splitter early on in the race, which developed and finally unravelled entirely by the end of the race. The drivers all pushed as hard as their now aerodynamically-challenged car would allow but finally, the end result was disappointing after such a strong weekend.”

The next endurance race for the GT World Challenge Europe teams is the 24 Hours of Spa in late July. Look out for an announcement coming tomorrow about that! Next up for the team are two weekends of Sprint Cup racing, the first taking place at Zandvoort in Holland on 19-20 June.


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