The Garage 59 team felt the full wrath of the Total 24 Hours of Spa this weekend. The Spa-Francorchamps track is known to be a car-breaker but the team didn’t expect the #59 Aston Martin to retire with a broken wheel hub before the end of the first hour. The #188 Aston Martin fared better and was running strongly in a podium position when Chris Goodwin was pushed into the pit wall by an Audi and forced to pit for lengthy repairs. The #188 crew finished the truncated race in ninth position in the AM class.
The Blancpain GT Series teams endured sweltering temperatures in the days leading up to the weekend but the 24-hour race began on Saturday in much cooler conditions and with rain heavy enough to require a Safety Car start.
After four laps behind the Safety Car the race went green and the 72 GT3 cars roared into action. Jonny Adam was at the wheel of the #59 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 . The Scot got away well and was just settling into the rhythm of the race when he suffered a wheel hub failure, forcing him to pit immediately and ultimately retire.
“The team did well to repair the car as quickly as they did but by the time we were ready to go we had lost 10 laps,” said Team Principal Andrew Kirkaldy. “That put us out of contention for the podium and considering we are not in the hunt for the championship with that car it wasn’t worth the risk to send it out into a race with such a high attrition rate. From that point on all of the focus went onto the AM car.”
With all of the teams’ hopes pinned on the #188 Aston Martin it was great to see Chris Goodwin making progress in the AM class, moving up to third place by the end of the first hour. Alexander West then took over, running well in difficult conditions that caught out many other drivers. After two long Full Course Yellows (FCY) in the first four hours it was time to give Aston Martin works driver, Ross Gunn, a turn at the wheel.
At the start of the fifth hour the leader of the AM class crashed and as Gunn had made his way up to second place he sailed into the lead as darkness began to fall at Spa. The driver cycle continue into the night with Chris Harris also taking his first turn at the wheel.
At the halfway mark the #188 Vantage had slipped to fourth place after losing out under a FCY but there was still plenty of time left to catch up. Then just over an hour later the race was red flagged as the wet conditions were deemed too dangerous for the race to continue.
The teams waited, and waited, and finally, almost six hours later the rain abated and the race re-started with just five hours left on the clock. Unfortunately just a few laps later any chance of a top result was taken away from the team, as Chris Goodwin explains.
“Our tactic throughout the race was to have a clear run and avoid any drama,” he said. “All through the race we took no chances, giving up time when we needed to avoid risky situations so that when it came to the end we would be in a position to push and get a result. As I came into La Source I ran wide to allow the frontrunners to go through. Unfortunately Aleshin’s Ferrari hit me and just as I gathered that up and accelerated away I was hit on the rear corner by Rene Rast in the Audi, which pitched me into the pit wall.”
After rattling along the wall, the #188 Aston Martin needed to get back to the team for repairs and on his slow lap back to the pits Goodwin had time to think about what had just happened.
“It’s a real shame that when you give the corner to the professional drivers, they can just run into you and not even be penalised for it. I’m pretty sure that every Audi has a brake pedal so I don’t know why Rast had to hit me. That was the end of the race for us. The team patched her up and we got back out there but we lost too much time to be in the fight. The Spa 24 Hours is historically a gruelling and gruesome race. We know it’s tough but as a team we were better prepared than ever so for our challenge to end the way it did is disappointing.”
The next race for Garage 59 is the Japanese round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, held at Suzuka on August 25th.