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Pista – British GT Championship – Podium reward for Beechdean AMR in Donington downpour

Beechdean AMR turned a challenging qualifying session into a champagne-soaked first British GT Championship podium finish of 2024 in a chaotic weather-affected race at Donington Park on Sunday.

The third-place finish in the Silver-Am class; a result of a doggedly determined performance by the High Wycombe team and its drivers Andrew Howard and Jessica Hawkins, also put the new Aston Martin Vantage GT3 on the podium for the first time.

Andrew and Jessica had gone sixth quickest in Silver-Am across Saturday’s pair of practice sessions, but felt there was work to do after qualifying seventh.

Happy with the Aston Martin in a wet raceday warm-up session, both drivers were confident of progress as conditions improved, but with rain falling again as the cars began the warm-up lap, the start was aborted.

Excellent progress by two-time series champion Andrew on a now rain-free circuit brought him up to fourth in Silver-Am by the time he pitted at the 20-minute mark to hand over to Aston Martin Aramco Formula One Team Driver Ambassador Jessica.

A further 20-minutes of dry action followed before a sudden downpour of biblical proportions led to seven cars aquaplaning off at the first corner within 60 seconds of each other and leading to a 45-minute red flag.

Racing resumed with Andrew and Jessica only needing to complete one more of their three mandatory pitstops versus the two of manyrivals. This, a result of clever team tactics earlier in the race, left each with around an hour left behind the wheel.

Andrew climbed back to fourth in class during the wettest part of the race and Jessica – in only her third GT racing weekend – continued the progress with a supremely-judged move at the Melbourne hairpin for second, despite making an extra pitstop to switch from wet tyres to slicks as conditions improved.

A frantic end to the race led to the leading Silver-Am runners becoming bunched together on track; Jessica losing a spot towards the finish but focusing on making the chequered flag in a career-best third place in class.

Andrew Howard said: “The weekend start was really hard. We struggled on Saturday but the team plugged away and what’s been great was the changeable conditions. Everyone’s done the job really well. We set our target as the podium, and we’ve delivered, which is fantastic. We had a good balance for the Aston Martin in the wet. I think we had a ‘safe’ car, which is what you want in these conditions. Jessica has done fantastically; this is her third weekend racing in British GT and every weekend’s been wet. Sometimes you’ve got to gamble a bit. Being able to come in for Jessica at the end and being able to go off the wet and onto the slicks and maintain position, and be competitive at the end, is a testimony to how far she’s come so far this season.”

Jessica Hawkins said: “I’m very happy. I wasn’t expecting a podium after the disappointing qualifying. We had great strategy from the Beechdean AMR team, Andrew had a great couple of stints and I think it was a really, really good job all around. It’s great to be able to reward the guys with a trophy. It was quite a long final stint, but we pitted twice quite early in the race. We even had an extra pitstop to for slicks in the final hour – one more than is mandatory – but we knew the strategy was spot-on. There were no major mistakes from either of us, so it was great to bring it home.”