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Watson is all fired up after BMW switch in Euro series

 

By Sammy Hamill

Andrew Watson is returning to the Blancpain European GT Sprint Cup series - but not with the McLaren teams he has raced with for the past three years.

The Donaghmore driver is switching to BMW to join the French 3Y Technology team for the opening round of the series at Zolder in Belgium next weekend.

Watson will team up with young Brazilian Lukas Moraes to drive a BMW M6 GT3 in the two one-hour sprint races next Saturday and Sunday.

He revealed the switch in a Tweet which read: "Here's a surprise! Racing with @BMWMotorsport and 3Y Technology in the @BlancpainGT sprint series! Driven the car already and it's good - first race next weekend in Zolder."

The 23-year-old Trinity College graduate has been part of the McLaren Young Driver Academy programme since 2015, competing in British and European GT races as well as top international events like the Bathurst 12-hours and Spa 24-hours.

He was included in the newly-formed Strakka McLaren team in 2017, along with fellow Ulsterman Jonny Kane, but after a disappointing season Strakka ended the partnership and have switched to Mercedes this year.

Watson, however, remains part of the McLaren set-up, with their 650S GT3s being run by associate company Garage 59, and he has already tested with team-mates Come Ledogar and Ben Barnicoat.

But they will concentrate on the longer endurance category of the Blancpain series and Watson has taken the opportunity to expand his programme with 3Y in the Sprint Cup.

The link is likely to have been Bas Leinders who was team manager for Strakka McLaren but lost his job in the end-of-season shake-up and has since taken over at 3Y.

Meanwhile, Colin Turkington and Chris Smiley have wrapped their preparations ahead of next week's first rounds of the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch.

Two-time champion Turkington was again one of the leading runners this week, both in the media day at Donington and the Dunlop tyre test sessions at Brands, his West Surrey Racing BMW figuring high in the timing sheets at the two circuits.

For fellow Ulsterman Smiley, it was the chance to get acquainted with his new car for 2018, a Honda Civic Type R as he prepares for his second full season in the BTCC.

His Northern Ireland-owned Norlin team ran Chevrolets last season but have now switched to the race-winning Civics which were used by the Yuasa Honda team in 2017.

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