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GT World Challenge Europe

Garage 59 Eyeing Sprint Program, Return to Full Series

Endurance Pro-Am champion Garage 59 evaluating a return to Sprint Cup next season…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

Garage 59 could enter the full GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS series next year with the team looking to add a Sprint Cup program to its existing Endurance entry.

The British squad has contested four of the last five Endurance Cup seasons, first with McLarens and then with Aston Martin Vantage GT3s in the two most recent campaigns.

This year it fielded Astons in Silver Cup and Pro-Am, winning the title in the latter with Alexander West and Chris Goodwin who were supported by Jonny Adam, Maxime Martin and Marvin Kirchhofer.

However, the team has not raced in the Sprint Cup championship since 2016 when it fielded a pair of Pro-class McLaren 650S GT3s.

That also marked the last time it ran concurrently in SRO Motorsports Group’s two main European GT3 series, while its driver Rob Bell finished second in the overall standings.

Garage 59 is now evaluating the possibility of re-joining the Sprint field in order to compete for overall GTWC Europe accolades again, with team principal Andrew Kirkaldy explaining that this is the primary consideration for next year’s summer program.

“We’re looking at potentially doing the whole season instead of just Endurance, which is what we’ve done the last couple of years,” Kirkaldy told Sportscar365.

“It’s important for us to continue with that. Stephane [Ratel] and his team have done a very good job to keep that running this year, to put the races on as they did.

“I think that will be our main focus. We are looking at other things as well, and I don’t have them confirmed at the moment, but our main focus is to try and get cars in that championship.

“Alex [West] in particular is keen to do some more events. If you’re going to do more events, the logical thing is to look at doing Sprint as well.”

Kirkaldy explained that Sprint Cup’s emergence as a suitable series for Silver and Pro-Am entries forms part of the appeal for Garage 59 as it weighs up its 2021 options.

“Sprint over the years had always been very Pro-dominated and I think it’s become a bit better in that sense, where it’s not completely dominated by Pro cars,” he said.

“When we won Endurance and finished second overall in 2016, it was very much a different story in Sprint. We had three full-on Pro drivers. If you didn’t have that you had almost zero chance.

“I think it’s a good move by Stephane to limit the Pro situation and try to have a bit more of a balanced grid.

“From the point of view of doing it with a Silver or Pro-Am, it’s now attractive. It would make sense to do the whole championship.

“Another obvious reasoning is that by only doing Endurance, we don’t get any prize money, which makes a reasonable difference too.

“We never go out there just to make the numbers up; we want to go out and win. We managed to win Pro-Am in Endurance [this year] so why not try to go out and win the whole thing?”

While Garage 59 focused on running Silver and Pro-Am entries in 2020, the team is open to returning to the Pro ranks next season.

Its last ran a Pro entry in 2019 when Adam, Come Ledogar and Andrew Watson – who formed a part of this year’s Silver Cup crew – shared an Aston in Endurance Cup.

“We’d like to run a Pro car and it’s certainly something that we have been considering and would like to do,” said Kirkaldy.

“Whether we can support that from a budget perspective remains to be seen, but we’d love to run a Pro car. We’ve done it in the past and would like to do it again.

“It really benefits you as a team, because if you’ve got a Pro car running at the front, it helps the Am and Silver drivers.”

Kirkaldy explained that if Garage 59 added a Pro entry, it would “need to increase” its Aston Martin Vantage GT3 stable beyond the two that cars it currently owns.

IGTC Program “Not Really Achievable” 

Should the team embark on a full GTWC Europe Endurance and Sprint program, it would likely need to forgo the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli.

Garage 59 made plans to enter the IGTC this year but decided to withdraw after the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour as the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“I think at the moment, IGTC for next year is extremely difficult, because the timeframes between doing IGTC and any of the World Challenge Europe races are just too short,” Kirkaldy explained.

“If we were a manufacturer and had cars that we could send around the world and race in Europe, that would be a slightly different thing. But as a private team that’s not really achievable.

“On the calendars, there’s one situation with one week between an IGTC race [at Indianapolis] and a GTWC Europe race [at Barcelona]. Even flying a car for that would be almost impossible.

“As much as we’d love doing IGTC, it’s not at the moment angled towards private teams.”

Daytona was Considered before Asia Chosen

Garage 59 will open its 2021 season with a two-car assault on the Asian Le Mans Series, which could herald an automatic invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans if it places in the top-four.

While a Le Mans berth would represent an “added bonus”, Kirkaldy revealed that the team initially looked at submitting an entry into next month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“To be honest, it was quite high up on the agenda for a while, but there’s been a lot of uncertainty,” he said.

“Then Asian Le Mans came up as a subject, and it looked quite good in the way that it was laid out. That ended up being top of the agenda.

“We’d love to do Daytona. It’s not going to happen in 2021 for us, but it’s absolutely on the list of things we’d like to do.

“I think we could have gone and done Daytona with one car, potentially. But there was a bit of a demand to do Asia. We can run two cars there. If we were sat here with lots of cars, maybe we could have done both.

“It’s definitely a race that we want to do. As CRS Racing – even before the McLaren days – we did Sebring and Petit, but we never did Daytona. So it’s a race that I’d love to get on the list.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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