British GT Championship star Andrew Watson secured a top ten overall finish on his Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour debut last weekend following a terrific fightback from the #60 Tekno Autosports McLaren following early drama.
Having taken class victory on his endurance racing debut in December’s Sepang 12 Hours with Tekno, Watson got handed the opportunity to join the team again in Australia, sharing their McLaren 650S GT3 with factory driver Rob Bell and V8 Supercars ace Will Davison.
From fifth on the grid, Bell started the race behind the wheel and settled into the top five in the early running, but when the field was bunched up after a caution period, he was hit from behind by a Bentley under braking at The Chase.
Expert driving from Bell saw him get the crabbing McLaren back to the pits despite a broken rear left suspension, and a superb effort from the team got the car back on track with only four laps left – though that still enough to end their chances of challenging for a podium finish.
The team started fighting back though and after taking over the wheel on the two hour mark, Watson made an immediate impact in the race, gaining five places in sixty minutes as he lapped as one of the top ten fastest cars on circuit.
The next stint saw Davison hustle the McLaren into the top ten before the race’s halfway mark, and that’s where they largely stayed over the final six hours with their lap deficit, with Davison back behind the wheel to take the chequered flag in ninth overall.
“I’m gutted with the result, we had the pace to be on the podium for sure,” Watson told TCF. “Rob drove a really good first stint and was up to third before we got hit by the Bentley.
“I see absolutely no sense in what David Russell did, we weren’t even an hour into a twelve hour race and he tried to be a hero for no reason. The team did an awesome job getting the car back out after just four laps. We battled on but the car wasn’t 100%, so we struggled a bit from then on in.
“From my point of view, I’m happy with myself. It was only my second endurance race after Sepang and my pace across the weekend was a bit surprising to some people I think. All the credit to the Tekno Autosports team, they did a top job considering they never ran the cars before and I wish them all the best for this season.
“It’s been a dream week and a big fat tick on my bucket list! It’s without doubt the best track in the world, I could drive round there all day. It’s a tough track, but it’s very rewarding if you get it right in terms of lap time. I really hope I get a chance to race here again.”
It was a different story for the sister Tekno Autosports McLaren 650S though, who took the overall victory with Shane Van Gisbergen, Alvaro Parente and Jonathon Webb behind the wheel.
Watson added: “For the team to go and win on their first time entering the race was amazing, and the celebrations were sweet so I’m glad I got to be a part of all. I’m so happy for everyone at McLaren GT, they’ve worked really hard for this one and now it’s all worth it.”