Beechdean 'Best of the Rest' after Le Mans Cup finale

Monday, October 28, 2019

Going into last weekends sixth and final round of the 2019 Michelin Le Mans Cup Series sadly had no ultimate Championship possibilities for Beechdean AMR but there was still the need to score well in order to secure there then present third place in the GT3 table.

With both the #8 Kessel Racing and the #71 Luzich Racing Ferrari 488's being able to dominate the season between them, it was always the Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT3 of Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn who would be pushing them all the way, trying to get themselves onto the top step of the class podium that had so far evaded them.

Despite no race wins and only a P2 most recently at previous round at Spa Francorchamps to shout about, it was most bizarre to see that the AMR Vantage had been given a weight increase (+10kg) as part of their revised Balance of Performance settings going in to the final round in Portimao, Portugal yet all the other chassis remained untouched, just like they had been all season.

None the less, the team set about their preparatory business in the usual format with lap times increasing over the available sessions before Howard Qualified the car P6 in class after having had a faster lap time deleted for track limits.

With the final two hour race starting in the morning of Sunday (rather than on the Saturday afternoon after Qualifying), the track was not up to its expected temperature value with gloomy clouds also covering the Portimao skyline potentially creating a few tyres issues between them.

From a GT3 Championship perspective, things quickly became interesting after the title challenging and pole setting Luzich Ferrari got tagged by an LMP3 to suffer both a spin and a puncture on only the first lap around the 4.6km circuit. What that first lap also did was to somehow create an event where the pole car (#71 Luzich) dropped to last but the then last placed car at the start - the #8 Kessel Racing car moved up to the front of the pack by the end of the second lap!

For Beechdean, Howard had also capitalised on the early confusion to move up to P4 in the opening minutes.

With the race flow broken by a brief Full Course Yellow for a stricken LMP3, things became slightly easier for the #99 car after the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari put themselves into the gravel meaning that they would then loose a significant of time making it extremely unlikely that they could ever surpass the Beechdean car in the Championship stakes. That also moved the #99 car up into P3 in class just before the hour but also saw a recovering Luzich car chasing up fast from behind.

Pitting just over Howards minimum stint time of 55 minutes, Gunn would exit pit lane and maintain a P3 position on track as the pit stop cycle came to an end but there was clearly no way he was going to settle for the lowest step on the podium as he chased down the SPS Performance Mercedes AMG ahead.

Within twenty minutes of getting in the car Gunn was soon battling for P2 in class, progress that was slightly delayed however with the untimely arrival of an LMP3 on the scene but within a lap the job was done and the #99 car was up to P2.

With just over fifteen minutes remaining Gunn soon hunted down the blue liveried #8 Kessel Racing Ferrari - giving them a massive ultimatum of either fighting them for position (and risk their Championship position) or simply let them pass! That would have made for a brilliant GT3 finale had it not been for the arrival of two more LMP3's on scene plus a late FCY for debris on track as that only left for about six minutes of racing at the end. Sadly for Gunn, the compromised routes into and out of the corners caused by the passing LMP3's lost him ground to the #8 car and Howard and Gunn would have to settle for another P2 finish in the last race of the season.

That result saw the Beechdean AMR team extend their position in the GT3 to secure third place by eleven points to their nearest rival, still fifty points and an automatic invitation to the 2020 24Hours of Le Mans down to the Kessel crew but still, it looked like 'the boss' enjoyed his first full season out in his new AMR Vantage GT3.

Hopefully, like their recent Press Release suggested - there may well be more to come from these boys in Europe next season?

Photo credits - Beechdean / LMC

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