Beechdean AMR get the job done in style at Spa

Saturday, September 21, 2019

In something close to a zero to hero race at the penultimate round of the Michelin Le Mans Cup Series from Spa Francorchamps today, Beechdean AMR drivers Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn raced their Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT3 from plumb last to claim a richly deserved GT3 class P2 podium at the end of the two hour race.

With Howard having last competed at the final round of the British GT Championship at Donington Park just last weekend, it was a quick dash down to the Belgium circuit to be ready for Wednesday's Collective test where the duo ended that day with good pace finishing P3 and P2 in class across the day's two sessions.

In Free Practice 1 yesterday the team submitted no laps, before Howard then later went out solo in the Bronze Driver session to at least post some lap times before the two then went out in the final Free Practice session - clearly the team having some concerns with something yesterday? Despite clocking competitive times in Qualifying that would have been worthy of a P4 start in class, the #99 AMR Vantage was adjudged to have exceeded the maximum number of turbo over-boosts permitted by Regulation in the session and all times were deleted (not the first time that has happened with the car).

Without hearing the specific reasons why, the Beechdean mechanics worked on into the night on Friday to replace the #99 cars AMG based engine - an action that would cast the car to the rear of the grid for Saturdays race but then the car was already at the rear of the grid from having its Qualifying times deleted - nothing to lose!

Come the start of the race today, thirty cars into La Source usually creates some degree of contact and with four LMP3's and a couple of GT3's all getting embroiled in a fight at the first corner this allowed Howard to calmly drive around the turmoil to pick up an incredible nine places on the opening lap alone.

The race took another twist as the GT3 Class Championship leading Luzich Racing Ferrari 488 collected a puncture from that turn one incident and from then on they were never in contention despite having claimed the class pole position. For the next forty minutes or so, Howard systematically picked off the cars in from to be in P3 by the time a Safety Car was called due to debris along the Kemmel Straight just ahead of the expected scheduled stops for all cars.

With just the #8 Kessel Racing and the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari's then ahead in the GT3 class, a quicker turn around for the #99 crew saw Gunn gain the advantage over the #51 in the pit lane to leave just 1.2 seconds behind the leading #8 car. For next fifty minutes Gunn tried everything to get past the experiences Piccini now aboard the #8 Kessel car but with both time and Michelin rubber beneath him running out all that Gunn could do was to bring the #99 car home at the chequered flag - still just 1.2 seconds behind the class winner.

Grateful for a clean and thoroughly entertaining race this time out for Howard, this result elevates them back up to P3 in the GT3 Championship but sadly now out of contention for the ultimate prize of an automatic Le Mans 24 Hrs invitation.

Never the less, Beechdean AMR will be back out a the final race of the season in Portimao, Portugal in five weeks time for a little more fun before the season end.

Photo credits - Le Mans Cup

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