Hard-fought local round keeps Garage 59 in class contention ahead of Sprint Cup finale next month

Monday, August 30, 2021

The penultimate round of the 2021 GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup was a gruelling home affair for the Garage 59 Aston Martin Racing team, but another two podium finishes sets up a winner takes all event at Valencia in a month’s time.

This weekend racing at Brands Hatch, events didn’t start off on a positive note as the team’s #159 AMR Vantage GT3 Silver Cup entry of Nicolai Kjaergaard and Tuomas Tujula needed a gear box replacement after an incident during Free Practice, and that would haunt that car’s efforts during the remainder of the weekend.

With the team unfortunately not doing so well in Silver Cup, their Pro-Am entry of Alex West and Jonny Adam however was doing very well with a constant stream of podium finishes during the eight races so far this season keeping them within an arm’s length of the Championship leading Barwell Lamborghini going into this round.

This time featuring the two one-hour races on a single day, any issue on track during Sunday morning’s race would automatically put any team onto the back step for the second race later in the afternoon.

With the threat of rain lingering over the grid ahead of race one, twenty-eight cars featured on the grid as the thought of so many equally balanced GT3 car thundering into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time excited the large attending crowd around the entire Grand Prix loop. Tujula started the #159 from P19 overall whilst West’s #188 car was down in P27.

Getting around the opening sequence of corners without too much incident, it quickly became apparent to the casual observer that overtaking was next to impossible without making contact or jeopardising your cars own integrity and that was pretty much the case for the two Garage 59 cars as the field approached the opening of the mandatory ten-minute pit window.

In this series, only tyres and drivers are allowed to be changed and by the end of the available pit window, AMR factory driver Adam emerged P26 overall whilst Kjaergaard came out ahead in P22. Compounding an already difficult season for the #159 crew, that position was also to diminish still further after they were deemed to have speeded in pit lane and that earned them a drive through penalty.

Approaching the final five minutes of the race, a move past the Tempesta Racing Ferrari by Adam for position also removed the #188 car from an area of danger as contact between the leading two cars and the Ferrari saw the race leading #38 Jota McLaren and the Ferrari spin off (and over the safety barrier for the #38 car) bringing out an immediate Full Course Yellow as Ollie Wilkinson thankfully extricated himself from what was left of his race car.

With the race effectively halted at that point, that meant that the #188 car had claimed the final step of the Pro-Am podium with an important P3 finish whilst the #159 would finish down in P10 in class.

Sunday afternoon’s second race was much of the same in terms of congestion but that there was also a little more realisation that any move had to be done early whilst the track was together.

This time race one’s finishing drivers started the race and that meant that Adam had a chance to chase down the #77 Barwell Lamborghini that was starting ahead of them again whilst Kjaergaard would see what he could salvage from his P26 starting position. That was all well and good until someone dumped out the guesting RAM Racing Mercedes into the gravel on the opening lap to bring out the Safety Car.

Ten minutes were lost behind that before the race eventually went back to green with Adam now just two cars behind the #77 whilst Kjaergaard had had to pit for grass to be removed from his cars radiator grille having had to take avoiding action at the RAM Racing spin. His re-emergence was soon helped by Race Control as two incident offending cars were soon given penalties that would see the #159 car gain two positions but again, their race was already run!

Staying out for as long as he could, Adam would hand over to West with just over twenty-five minutes remaining. Coming out of the pit lane blend line in the class lead, West was soon overtaken by the #77 as he went around Druids for the first time. Never with quite enough performance as those ahead, West quickly had to settle for protecting his P2 position to the end which he did despite the Mercedes behind gaining two seconds per lap.

Unfortunately, there was nothing that could have been done about the #77 Barwell crew achieving another double win to extend their lead over the #159 crew (despite their own double podium) by fourteen points going into the final meeting of the season at Valencia in a month’s time but with some thirty-five points still available – there is still everything to race for!!

Photo credits – GTWCE / Garage 59

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