The McLaren 650S GT3 has secured its second victory of the Blancpain Endurance Series season at the weekend with victory for McLaren GT customer team Von Ryan Racing. Works drivers Rob Bell, Shane van Gisbergen and Kevin Estre battled through the grid after a challenging qualifying session, but a bold strategy call by the team saw the McLaren add to the victory in Silverstone, with a winning margin of 14 seconds. This result makes the 650S GT3 the only model to secure two victories this season in one of the most world’s competitive GT series.
Mixed fortunes for Von Ryan Racing saw the #59 650S GT3 of factory driver pairing Alvaro Parente and Bruno Senna alongside Adrian Quaife-Hobbs qualify on the second row, while Bell, Estre and van Gisbergen lined up P24 in the #58 car after a red flag brought an early end to a session denying Estre a chance to improve his time as the track conditions improved.
Parente and Bell took the opening stints, and both made strong starts with Bell looking to move through the midfield and Parente pushing the leaders hard. This charge was brought to a premature end midway through this stint as Parente was pushed off the track, leaving the Portuguese driver in the gravel and the Safety Car was deployed. With Bell pushing hard up to that point, the team made a bold call to pit the #58 McLaren, which would push the time limits for each driver to the maximum and Bell made way for van Gisbergen. The previously stranded #59 car returned to the pits, and Senna looked to recover the time lost as the race got underway again.
As he had done for the previous victory earlier in the season at Silverstone, van Gisbergen worked hard to close the gap ahead while managing fuel. This careful and considered stint allowed the New Zealander to complete the extended stint brought about after the early stop, pushing his time in the car to the limit as he lay in P18. A prolonged second Safety Car period as the stint neared its end worked in the team’s favour, and van Gisbergen’s pitstop was timed to perfection to set up an exciting final stint with Estre taking over with 70 minutes of the race remaining.
The running order was shaken up as more than 90 percent of the grid pitted under the Safety Car, and when Estre emerged back on to the track he had gained six positions. A top 10 finish looked to within grasp, as all cars ahead of the Frenchman were still to make a final driver change. Consistently quick laptimes followed by Estre as he closed the gap on fresh tyres, and as each of the cars ahead pitted, the #58 steadily made its way further through the field. Calculations on the Von Ryan Racing pitwall estimated that a podium was likely, and as the pit window closed Estre had taken the lead. As the clock ticked down, and the laps went by, the team watched as Estre managed and extended the lead, pulling out a 14 second gap as he crossed the line. The result saw Bell, van Gisbergen and Estre on the top step of the podium for the second time this season, and marked the McLaren 650S GT3 – still only in its debut season – as the only car to score multiple victories in the Blancpain Endurance Series this year.