Andrew Howard admits that Beechdean AMR “lucked in” to winning the European Le Mans Series GTE title at the final round in Estoril.
The Beechdean boss, who stepped up to the ELMS after winning the British GT championship for a second time in 2015, overturned a 20-point deficit to the JMW Motorsport Ferrari when it developed gearbox problems, while the Aston Martin he shared with Alex MacDowall and factory driver Darren Turner claimed victory after a storming opening stint from MacDowall.
Speaking to Racing.GT, Howard said that his main priority heading into the weekend was to consolidate second in the standings – and the guaranteed invitation to the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours – by finishing ahead of the AT Racing Ferrari and No. 77 Proton Porsche, but confirmed that his surprise championship success has not altered plans for a multi-year approach to the ELMS, before graduating to the World Endurance Championship.
“If I’m honest, we’ve lucked in at the end of the season,” he said. “We had to finish third [in Estoril] to get the Le Mans entry for finishing second in the championship and that’s all we went in for – to beat those two cars, or make sure that we finished close enough behind them that they couldn’t score more points than us.
“It was very, very unfortunate for JMW – they’ve been fantastic competitors all year and they’ve been the strongest car, but it’s just the consistency and the reliability of the Aston has really shone through.
— Andrew Howard (@BeechdeanAH) October 23, 2016
“We set off as a development year because I think you’ve got to give the championship two or three years. You’ve got to go in, keep your head down, watch how others do it and I think we’ve done that.
“It’s been a hard season for us – we’ve gone into a championship where although there’s only eight cars in our class, there is absolute quality in all of them. Having Darren and Alex in the car has been brilliant for me this year, but there’s another season there to come back and do what JMW have done this year.”
Howard is confident that returning to circuits where he has previous experience will allow him to unlock more performance in his own driving, above all at La Sarthe, having made his debut there in June.
“It’s the reason that you do this, the opportunity of winning a prize like that. To have a guaranteed Le Mans entry in October the previous year is just phenomenal,” he continued.
“We go to Monza next year and I’ve tested a lot at Portimao, so we’re going to tracks that I’ve got experience at. It proved to be successful for me to go back to Estoril, where I raced last year – when you’re not thinking about the track as much it makes a massive, massive difference. That was the first time I’ve been able to go into a race and deliver consistent laptimes that are on par with the other Bronzes.”
Here she is Casino Estoril! pic.twitter.com/gIvmX0ZWPO
— Beechdean AMR (@BeechdeanAMR) October 23, 2016
Having now taken five titles in four years across GT4, GT3 and GTE with Beechdean, Howard also reserved special praise for Aston Martin.
“We’re not sure that this is correct but we think that we’re the first team to have won a championship in GT4, GT3 and GTE, which if that’s true would be quite a cool thing to do,” he said. “We’ve won it with all three levels of Aston Martin cars, which shows what a great car from GT4 to GTE that the Astons are. I wouldn’t have dreamed that we could have done it this year and it just gives me more confidence to go back to Le Mans next year with as strong a team as we can and do the best job we can.”