Battling through the long night to the Pro-Am podium at Spa

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The #188 Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 finished a gruelling 2020 Total 24 Hours of Spa in third place in the Pro-Am class and 20th position overall, securing a much-deserved podium finish at the toughest edition yet of the Belgian classic.

Only 32 of the 56 cars that took the start made it to the chequered flag, highlighting the effects of plummeting temperatures, over 12 hours of total darkness, topped off by heavy rain on Sunday morning.

Although the #188 crew returned with silverware, the #159 Aston Martin fell victim to the night. Contact for Valentin Hasse-Clot damaged the Vantage’s wiring loom and despite the team making repairs to return the car to the track it was ultimately forced to retire.

When Maxime Martin started the race in the #188 Vantage, he was starting his 13th consecutive 24 Hours of Spa. The Aston Martin factory driver made rapid progress, moving up from 42nd place overall to 27th in just 40 minutes, taking the lead in the Pro-Am class. Cycling through Jonny Adam, Alex West and Chris Goodwin, the #188 rarely left the Top 3 throughout the race and shouldered everything that was thrown at it.

A challenge for the Pro-Am win fell away when a false puncture alarm brought the car in for an unnecessary extra pit stop and with all the challenges of the weather and repeated full course yellow and safety car periods, it was a relief when Alexander West crossed the line to take the podium finish.

“That was a difficult race for everyone and the fact that so many cars didn’t finish is no surprise,” said Adam. “We’re happy to finish on the podium. Even though it’s a 24-hour race you need to have a completely clean run to finish first. The win got away from us with that extra pit stop but I think we can all feel proud to have made it to the flag as those were some of the trickiest conditions I’ve ever raced in. Kudos to my teammates for some great driving and everyone at Garage 59 for all their hard work throughout the week.”

The sister #159 Aston Martin of Andrew Watson, Valentin Hasse-Clot, James Pull and Roman De Angelis started the race strongly in the hands of Hasse-Clot and moved up to third in the Silver class as the race progressed. Their fate was sealed in the eighth hour when an uncharacteristic mistake from Hasse-Clot saw the #159 Vantage make contact with another car.

He managed to get the car back to the team for repairs and re-joined the race, nine laps down on the leaders, but ultimately the car had to be retired less than two hours later due to damage from the original accident. It was a disappointing end for the Silver class squad, as James Pull explains: 

“It was a tough race for us and really unfortunate that it was all over before the half way mark,” said Pull. “We were running third and we had just been a little unlucky, losing a lap under the safety car, but the thing with Spa is that anything can happen. We still had a long, long way to go but unfortunately Spa is brutal and it wasn’t our race this time. I’m proud of the guys for the pace we showed; it’s just unfortunate it had to end the way it did.”

The GT World Challenge Europe has one more round in 2020. This will take place at Paul Ricard on Sunday 15 November.

Source material - Garage 59
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