Car damage during the early part of round two of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup at Circuit Paul Ricard on Saturday, 29th May, prevented an almost certain Silver Cup podium challenge for Alex MacDowall – the Briton instead having to settle for ninth place.
With confidence justifiably high ahead of the ‘into the night’ six-hour race in France, having secured an excellent class pole position during qualifying, Carlisle’s MacDowall and Garage 59 team-mates Valentin Hasse-Clot and Nicolai Kjaergaard had to work hard to overcome difficulties race-long.
Running with a broken front splitter on their Aston Martin Vantage GT3, which got progressively worse throughout the six hours, the trio had to watch the chance of a first podium of 2021 disappear but did manage to salvage points for ninth in the Silver Cup.
“We were looking good after a strong qualifying result, taking the Silver Cup pole was fantastic and the car showed it’s quick over one lap”, said MacDowall, “Val [Hasse-Clot] made a really good start but, unfortunately, picked up some damage and the front splitter was dropping gradually as the race went on.
“By the time I started my second stint it was really bad, so it was just about staying out of trouble and trying to bring the car back with some points. It’s obviously frustrating but I’m happy with the strong pace we showed in qualifying, and in the race before the car picked up damage, and we know it should have been a podium. That’s promising for us as we look ahead to the Spa 24 Hours.”
Preparing well during practice and pre-qualifying on Friday, 28th May, the Garage 59 team-mates went on to deliver a fantastic performance in final qualifying on Saturday morning to secure the Silver Cup pole. With little to choose between the drivers across the three sessions, an average time of 1m54.509 seconds was only half a second away from the outright fastest.
Hasse-Clot started the race in the No.159 Aston Martin at 18.00 local time on Saturday evening and although shuffled back to 13th overall from ninth, he maintained the Silver lead. At the half-hour mark he was around five seconds clear of his closest class challenger – with two ‘Pro’ cars between them – and then made the squad’s first pit stop just after the end of the opening hour.
MacDowall climbed behind the wheel for his first stint and when the race order settled he was still in the Silver lead, holding 14th position overall. Passing the No.25 ‘Pro’ class Sainteloc Audi, he gained an outright position on lap 37 and held an extended seven second lead in Silver at that point – even with the front splitter damage beginning to have an impact.
Becoming bottled up behind the No.26 Sainteloc Audi into the second half of his stint, MacDowall was then pressured by Silver Cup rival Konstantin Tereschenko and the Mercedes-AMG was able to get ahead with almost two hours complete. MacDowall, though, refused to be dropped.
Pitting early in hour three to hand over the Aston to Kjaergaard from second in class, the Dane joined the race 1.5 seconds behind the leader as light began to fade. Although positions shuffled in the overall order during his stint, Kjaergaard held onto second in Silver but at the halfway point of the race he had slipped 22 seconds shy of the Silver leader as the car became more of a handful.
Staying in the Aston for a double-stint at the next pit-stop, Kjaergaard then pitted again at the end of hour four when a Full Course Yellow cautionary period – the first of the race – was in force. Running third in Silver at the time, he handed over to MacDowall for his second stint.
Taking to the track third in class, racing resumed soon after and the Cumbrian fought as hard as he could but there wasn’t any chance to hold onto the podium with the damage. Hasse-Clot got back behind the wheel for the final hour of racing, ending ninth in class and 27th overall.
Round three of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup is the highlight event of the season, the annual Total 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium over the weekend 31st July/1st August. Before then, MacDowall and the other contenders will take part in a two-day test at Spa-Francorchamps on Tuesday, 22nd June, and Wednesday, 23rd June.
GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup ‘Silver Cup’ Standings
13th Alex MacDowall/Valentin Hasse-Clot/Nicolai Kjaergaard, 3pts
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. Garage 59/Drew Gibson