Garage 59 completed the 2023 Asian Le Mans Series with a brace of Top 10 finishes in Abu Dhabi. The results from Race 2 were in contrast to the first of the weekend’s two Asian Le Mans races, which saw the #88 McLaren suffer damage, thanks to a hit from an LMP3 car.
A fully-recovered Marvin Kirchhöfer returned to the #88 McLaren to join Alexander West and Benji Goethe. After being taken out of Race 1, the trio scored eighth place in Race 2. In the #59 McLaren, Rob Bell, Louis Prette and Nick Halstead finished in 12th and 10th places respectively in the two races.
GT Qualifying was interrupted, as it was in Dubai, but not for long this time around. As soon as the session got back underway, Alex West put in some fast laps that gave the #88 McLaren ninth and 11th places on the grid for the two races. In the #59 McLaren, Nick Halstead scored a 15th place grid position for both races.
Sportscar racing is a non-contact sport or it is at least supposed to be. Race 1 started with multiple incidents on the opening lap and the Garage 59 McLarens didn’t come away unscathed.
Alex West was pushed off the track when the #60 Ferrari made an ambitious move through the middle of two cars, then soon after that, Rob Bell in the #59 McLaren, who had stormed through from 15th to seventh, picked up a puncture and was forced to pit.
One Safety Car and a full course yellow period later it looked like the race had finally settled down but just 40 minutes into the four-hour race, West was speared off by an LMP3 car and that was the end of the race for the #88 McLaren.
Before the first hour was up, the #60 Ferrari went off hard into the barrier and out came the red flag whilst said barrier was repaired.
Nick Halstead was now aboard the #59 McLaren, running in 13th place after the earlier delay. Unfortunately, he picked up two drive through penalties during his run, which somewhat stunted the recovery. When Louis Prette jumped in for the run to the flag the Monégasque driver managed to pick up a couple of places and crossed the line in 12th place.
The second race in Abu Dhabi had little of the drama of Race 1, in fact it had just one caution period, which came along in the second hour.
Rob Bell took the wheel of the #59 McLaren for the start and was soon slicing his way through the field, making it all the way up to fourth before pitting to hand over to Halstead. Nick had a good, clean run and then it was Prette’s turn to jump in to take it to the chequered flag. A puncture prevented Louis from making progress up the order and he crossed the line in 12th position.
In the #88 McLaren, West was happy to have a far less eventful start to the race and pushed on throughout his run before handing over to Benji Goethe. During Benji’s run he managed to haul the McLaren all the way up to fourth but still owed a pit stop. This was the moment where the team could really have done with a full course yellow but it wasn’t to be. Benji handed over to Marvin Kirchhöfer who joined the race in 10th position, got his head down and crossed the line in eighth place!
Marvin Kirchhöfer - #88 McLaren: “P8 is not what we were hoping for today as we were aiming for the podium. It just wasn’t our race. We got a drive through penalty early on for track limits, which compromised us and then it would have been good to have a couple of yesterday’s full course yellows but there was nothing like that later in the race. The car felt really good though and the team has done a great job all weekend, especially in the pit stops. It just wasn’t meant to be for us this time so hopefully we can come back next year and wrap up a title here.”
Rob Bell - #59 McLaren: “The car felt good at the start and I managed to make my way up the order to fourth before the first pit stop. We were delayed with track limits penalties yesterday so we made sure we were clean as a whistle on that front today. Louis did a great job at the end bringing it home, despite being delayed with a puncture. Everyone did a good job today and the car was reliable. It just wasn’t our day to be on the podium.”
Louis Prette - #59 McLaren: “First of all, I would like to thank the whole Garage 59 crew for making me feel so at home. The results were not there unfortunately but I managed to get lots of valuable experience in the car. It was great to work alongside Rob over the past two weeks as there is nothing he doesn’t know about the McLaren 720S GT3! I’m now really looking forward to my next challenge which will be announced soon.”