Bentley's win on home soil


The Bentley Boys are back on top and boy, what a weekend it was to notch up the first victory for their new Continental GT3 racer.

To win at Silverstone, in only their second race, and in front of an adoring home crowd, made Sunday May 25 a very special day for Bentley Motorsport, the Director of Motorsport Brian Gush and the men from M-Sport whose slick pit work played a big part in this Blancpain Endurance series victory.

“It felt really good to win at home,” said a proud and relieved Gush (below on the podium) after three hours of close racing, “and it was a great team effort, everyone did a superb job in the pit stops, especially after a drive-through penalty. The car is very strong in long, fast corners and hopefully our pace here will translate well into future rounds of the championship.”

For Guy Smith, Steven Kane and Andy Meyrick, who shared the driving duties of the winning car, this was the dream result after many months of testing, painstaking development and countless hours pounding round empty circuits.

Silverstone Top Ten

Smith/Meyrick/Kane, Bentley Continental GT3
Soucek/Estre/Korjus McLaren MP4-12C
Basseng/Ramos/Vanthoor Audi R8 Ultra
Ortelli/Sandstroem/Guilvert Audi R8 Ultra
Wolf/Afanasiev/Dusseldorp Merc. SLS AMG
Primat/Verdonck/Schneider Merc. SLS AMG
Premat/Demoustier/Parente McL. MP4-12C
McMillen/Strauss/Buncombe Nissan GT-R
Nash/Stippler/Mies Audi R8 LMS Ultra
10 Jelley/Harthy/Caine Aston Martin Vantage

The Blancpain Endurance victory looked a little unlikely early on when Guy Smith was given a drive-through penalty for improving his lap time under yellow flags. This came as something of a surprise to the 2003 Le Mans winner who is still getting used to racing a GT car after so many seasons in prototypes.

“I hadn’t raced at Silverstone since 2000, so I’d never driven the new circuit, Saturday was a wash-out with all the rain, so I hadn’t driven the new layout in the dry until the race – that was quite nerve-wracking – but it worked out OK and I was running third. My plan was to stay as close to Estre’s McLaren as possible, there were yellows everywhere, so I was being fairly cautious. But while the yellows were out I did a purple sector time through Copse, Maggotts and Becketts and of course I didn’t know that inside the car, and I hadn’t picked up a place or anything. Anyway, in Blancpain all the teams are looking out for any possible penalties, watching all their competitors. I was a bit surprised and it didn’t look as though we could win at that point.”

The M-Sport mechanics, however, did a superb job in the pit stops, having been off the pace at the last round in Monza, and a great team effort, including a strong stint from Andy Meyrick, saw the number 7 Bentley back at the head of the field.

“We all got together after Monza,” Guy told me, “and Andy, Steven and I all went up to M-Sport last week and practiced pit stops until we got them right and that’s what the made the difference. Pit stops are so important in the Blancpain Endurance series and at Monza we really hadn’t had the time to get them how we wanted them, in fact we were the slowest in the field. On actual pace we were right there, so we knew the car was good, and at Silverstone the guys did a superb job and they’ll only get better.”

Of course, it was special for Bentley to win on home soil, especially as all the company’s board members were there to see what the new Continental GT3 could do.

“Yeah, all the bosses were there, and I could tell there was a lot of pressure on when I saw Brian (Gush) looking a bit stressed when normally he’s quite relaxed,” he laughs. “Because it was Brian who sold the new racing programme to the board and it was time to deliver. It was a big ask, mind you, in only our second race, and we hadn’t done any testing at Silverstone, so we pretty much had the Monza set-up. Anyway, the car felt great, but we’re not the quickest in a straight line and we’re not dominating the series so we shouldn’t be too worried about performance penalties, or ballast, at this stage. But whatever we get, we will deal with it.”

New to GT racing, Guy is proud to be a Bentley Boy, to be chosen to spearhead the new campaign. Most importantly, there have been new challenges, and that’s been good for his career ten years on from winning in the Speed 8 at Le Mans.

“Up until now I’ve felt a bit of an impostor in GT racing,” he says, “but now I feel like a GT driver rather than a prototype racer. I feel comfortable in the car now, it’s exciting and challenging, and I’m getting used to the way the car behaves. First time out in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year it was a bit strange, a steep learning curve, and it’ll probably take me half a season to get to where I want to be.”

Last weekend Bentley was definitely where it wants to be, on the top step of the Blancpain Endurance podium. History is repeating itself in the best possible way for this most famous of British cars.


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