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Pro-Am podium provides consolation after a tough race at Hockenheim

The penultimate round of the 2022 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe delivered further points for Garage 59 but the results failed to reflect the early promise shown by the team.

As the series made its race debut at Hockenheim in Germany, the #188 McLaren line-up, comprising Alexander West, Miguel Ramos and Henrique Chaves, looked to be heading towards another Pro-Am Class victory but ultimately had to settle for third at the flag.

The Silver Cup class McLaren of Nicolai Kjærgaard, Manuel Maldonado and Dean Macdonald finished seventh in class, despite lapping at the front of the Silver Cup runners in the early stages of the race.

The team had to quickly find a substitute driver for the #159 McLaren when Ethan Simioni tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the race meeting. Luckily, regular Sprint Cup driver, Dean Macdonald, was available so he jumped into the Silver Cup class McLaren.

Everything ran like clockwork throughout the practice and pre-qualifying sessions. A huge rain shower on Saturday morning during Free Practice gave the team its first real opportunity to run the McLarens in the wet but by the time Qualifying came around on Sunday, the sun was shining and the track temperatures were starting to climb.

Sunday morning’s Qualifying session saw the team ranked high up on the timing screens, with blistering performances in particular from Kjærgaard, Macdonald and Chaves. This strong showing resulted in the Pro-Am pole position for the #188 McLaren and third place in Silver Cup for the #159.

With strong starting positions the team was hopeful of a good result for both cars but the outcome ultimately didn’t reflect the pace or indeed the effort put in by the whole team.

Both cars started well, in the hands of West and Kjærgaard but the race was neutralised on the opening lap when the JOTA McLaren was forced off the track and into the barrier. It wasn’t until the 30th minute of the three-hour race that the green flag was thrown and racing was underway again.

Kjærgaard pitted the #159 McLaren from third place in class at the end of the first hour but the car became blocked in the pits by the team next door, delaying the getaway for Maldonado. This delay was exacerbated by a turbo issue that was making itself known. A final flurry in the last hour by Dean Macdonald managed to bring the car up a position but seventh in class was ultimately a disappointing finish for the crew.

After a strong opener from Alex West, the #188 McLaren was running well in Miguel Ramos’ hands, holding the class lead, but with just over an hour to go an upshift issue forced him to pit for a new steering wheel. This extra stop gave the lead away and it was left to Henrique Chaves to bring the #188 home to take the final Pro-Am podium position.

“That was very much a case of unfulfilled promise,” said team principal, Andrew Kirkaldy. “It’s frustrating that we had a problem with both of the cars, which ultimately stopped us from delivering on the pace we showed in the lead up to the race.”

There are two more rounds of the GT World Challenge Europe remaining. A Sprint Cup round in Valencia in two weeks’ time, followed by the Endurance Cup season finale in Barcelona on 2 October.


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