McLaren GT Academy star Andrew Watson is hopeful of a strong qualifying session at Silverstone on Sunday morning, and expects a big gain in time once his Garage 59 McLaren 650 S GT3 gets new tyres.
The Scottish racer, who is racing alongside fellow academy races Struan Moore and Alex Fontana this year in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, admitted to complaining for having to run on extremely old tyres during practice, but was happy with his performance.
“I haven’t crashed yet, which is good,” said Watson to The Checkered Flag at Silverstone. “It’s hard the way this championship works with tyres, because obviously the team does the sprint series and endurance, but I only do endurance, so it’s a little bit hard with tyres.
“I mean I’ve only driven on 250km old tyres, which is more than a race, so I got out and did a bit of complaining because the tyres were so old. I think I’ll get a little bit fresher tyres this time, and it was nice to get a run around and make sure I’m going left when I’m meant to be going left and right when I’m going right, so it was okay, but we’ve got some work to do with the car.
“We’ve got to do some pit stop practice, because we’ve got some new nets because the FIA homologation and we’re pretty bad at doing those so we’re going to have a go at that later, but it’s a nice day.”
Watson felt that the performance to qualify so high in the field during the season opening race at Monza was impressed for the team, especially due to the high speed nature of the Italian circuit, but feels that qualifying at Silverstone should enable them to fight higher up the grid, once new tyres are fitted.
“In Monza last time I was really happy with my qualifying,” revealed Watson. “I out-qualified the other Pro car, we were fifteenth, which in Monza was really good for us.
“We don’t have the biggest top speeds so to be only three-tenths off pole for my first Blancpain race was pretty cool. The car should be a bit better here, we should be able to fight for pole.
“I’d love a top ten, that’ll be really cool, but it’s hard to look at that now having only driving around on really old tyres, but hopefully whenever we get some new tyres on we’ll be able to see where we are.
“We should find about four seconds from what I drove on with new tyres, hopefully, if we don’t we’re going to be in trouble. Because it’s such a long lap and it’s high speed and you need a lot of grip, it’s worth a lot around here. If people can save some tyres for the race through qualifying it’s going to be a big advantage.”
Watson feels the three drivers in the Garage 59 entry have all gelled well together so far, and praised the job both Moore and Fontana did during their first Endurance race together at Monza.
“The new team-mates are pretty good,” said Watson. “We’re all in this McLaren GT academy, so I think our average age is like twenty-one, so we’re the youngest car, and then we’ve got the old guys, as we call them, in the car other car.
“We all get along pretty well, and the guys did a really good job in Monza, Struan and Alex, in their first race, I was pretty impressed with that. And you’re only as quick as your slowest guy, so if we can all get up to the same speed it helps us all, and we’re doing a good job so far.”