EDGE driver Tom Gamble had a very last minute call up last weekend to support Garage 59 and McLaren Automotive as Marvin Kirchhöfer was taken unwell at the 11th hour. Luckily, Tom was available and he jumped on the next flight to step into Marvin’s seat in the #88 McLaren.
GT Qualifying on Saturday morning was punctuated by an almost three-hour gap due to barrier repair work required after a Porsche went off. Once back underway, Tom’s teammate Alexander West qualified the #88 McLaren in 11th and ninth places respectively for the two races.
Bronze rated driver West got away well at the start of Saturday’s four-hour race and put in a strong early stint. Nick Halstead in the sister car pitted early during a full course yellow period and West waited until the first stint was completed before pitting to hand over to Gamble when the track was green. The two team cars got back in sync later in the race when the #88 pitted under yellows.
The timing of the full course yellows wasn’t on the team’s side on Saturday but that is the nature of GT racing. Some you win, some you lose. The bigger problem was that the McLaren was down on power but that was soon to change.
Both cars ran well throughout the four hours, only interrupted by a puncture for the #88. West, Gamble and Goethe all ran well before finishing in 16th, knocked down the order a little by that puncture. It was all to play for the following day for Race 2.
An overnight Balance of Performance adjustment and a range of set-up changes saw a renewed Garage 59 in the second of the two Dubai races, with both McLarens quickly back on form.
As the #59 McLaren was starting from 20th on the grid, the team took the decision to put Bell in for the start to make up positions. Rob clearly got the memo as by lap nine he had made his way from 20th to second and was busy hunting down the GT leader!
In the #88 McLaren, West started from ninth, thanks to his strong showing in Qualifying. He pitted at the end of his opening stint, still holding onto ninth, to hand over to Gamble.
The second hour saw the first of the Safety Car periods. At the restart both Gamble and Halstead pushed on, with Gamble making his way up to second in the #88 McLaren by making a great move on the D’Station Aston Martin. Unfortunately, he was then handed a drive through penalty for a track limits infringement, which later transpired to be an error from the championship, not resetting the track limits counter between drivers. Tom took the penalty immediately so he could get back out before the pack spread out too much.
A full course yellow at the end of the second hour was the cue for both McLarens to pit. West jumped into the #88 and Halstead remained onboard the #59. When the race went green again, Alex was in sixth in the #88 with Nick behind him in seventh place.
A second Safety Car just before the final hour presented the opportunity for Goethe and Prette to take the driving seats for the race to the chequered flag. Benji crossed the line in fourth place in the #88, just shy of the podium, with Louis behind him in fifth.