Watson bridges the gulf to claim his first Porsche podium place
Andrew Watson claimed a first World Endurance Championship finish in the Eight Hours of Bahrain race, taking third place in the LMGTE-AM category with the Gulf Racing Porsche team.
From Donaghmore in Co Tyrone, Watson is officially part of Aston Martin's Junior Driver programme, racing in the Blancpain European GT championship, but has been released to drive for the Gulf Porsche team in the 2019/2020 WEC series alongside Michael Wainwright and Ben Barker.
They came close to finishing in the top three in the first three rounds but finally made it in the last race of the year at the Yas Marina circuit.
"We've just missed out on the top three a couple of times so it was great to end the year on the podium, especially with my parents here to see it," said Watson.
However, it was a disappointing race for Watson's fellow Ulsterman and Aston Martin Junior Driver Charlie Eastwood. Having scored back to back wins in the previous two rounds with Jonny Adam and Salih Yuloc in the TF Sport's Vantage GTE, Eastwood was forced into the pits during his second stint at the wheel with a mechanical issue.
They lost several laps trying to fix the problem, which turned out to be a broken fuel rail, but after returning to the track for a handful of laps, decided to retire the car rather than risk future damage.
"With the 45 kilos of success ballast on board it was always going to be a difficult race for us then, unfortunately, in my second stint I started to struggle shifting up through the gears," explained Eastwood. "It turned out that the fuel rail was the problem, starving the engine. Gradually it got worse and we had to retire.
"It's not the result we wanted to finish off a pretty perfect 2019 but we're still in the hunt for the championship. On the bright side, it means less ballast going into the next round in Texas in February."
Toyota claimed a crushing overall victory after capitalising on early woes for rivals Rebellion and Ginetta.
The Toyoya Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez moved into the lead on the opening lap after Bruno Senna's Rebellion and the Ginetta of Charlie Robertson collided.
From there on, the Toyota trio enjoyed a trouble-free run, securing their second victory of the season, following their triumph at the Silverstone season-opener in September.