Andrew Watson has his sights set on Le Mans after achieving a first World Endurance Championship podium finish at Monza.
The 26-year-old International GT winner from Donaghmore in Co Tyrone played a starring role for the Japanese D’station Aston Martin team with a marathon triple stint in the six-hour race around the Italian Grand Prix circuit on Sunday.
Along with Satoshi Hoshino and Tomonobu Fujii, Watson finished in third place in the GTE/am category, only the second time a Japanese team had finished on the WEC podium.
Starting in 10th on the grid, Hoshino and Fujii took the first two stints, climbing into the top six before Watson produced a scintillating performance to drag them towards the front of the pack, his race engineer radioing: “Great pace Andrew, currently P3, less than 30 seconds from the leader.”
And it got better as he moved to second behind the AF Corse Ferrari of Alessio Rovera, Francois Perrodo and Nicklas Nielsen, handing over to Fujii with just 45 minutes remaining.
In the run to the flag, Fujii came under pressure from the sister Aston Martin driven by Augusto Farfus, the Brazilian who has been acting as a mentor to Daniel Harper and the BMW Junior team in Germany.
The experienced Farfus squeezed past on the final lap to snatch second.
But Watson was still upbeat as he now looks ahead to the Le Mans 24-Hour race next month.
“It was one of the best days of my career. I’m so happy with what we achieved,” he said. “To stand on the podium in only the team’s third race in the WEC was amazing. I’m really confident we can add to this result in the races ahead, especially at Le Mans.”
It will be Watson’s second visit to the Le Sarthe circuit having finished fifth in GTE/am with the Gulf Porsche team last year.
“It’s going to be different this time with spectators back. I can’t wait to go back,” he said.