Bentley took their second consecutive win in the Blancpain Endurance Series as Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane followed up their Silverstone victory with triumph in the Paul Ricard race on Saturday evening.
Smith did much of the work in the #7 car, working his way up from seventh on the grid to second during the opening stint of the race.
Pole-man Alvaro Parente led from the start in the #98 ART Grand Prix McLaren, but was kept honest for much of the first hour by Japanese driver Katsumasa Chiyo, the Pro driverin the #35 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN machine. Chiyo dropped back as the stint wore on though, and with the team’s focus on Pro-Am honours, they instructed him to not fight the Pro class Bentley.
In the second stint, Meyrick reeled in the #98’s driver Gregoire Demoustier and got past with a dive down the inside of the final corner. That came shortly after the sister #8 Bentley of Jerome D’Ambrosio had stopped while hunting for fourth.
Another slower stop from the M-Sport crew relative to their ART counterparts meant that Kane joined the race only just ahead of Nicolas Lapierre, who was added to the #98 line-up in place of his former A1GP-winning team-mate Alexandre Premat for this event. Lapierre was able to put the pressure on Kane during the dark final hour, but the Ulsterman held on to win by 1.1 seconds after the three-hour race.
The leading pair were nearly 50 seconds clear of the rest of the field. The battle for third was fought out mostly by the two HTP Motorsport Mercedes in the latter two hours. The #85 and #84 cars started second and tenth respectively, but a typically strong drive from Maximilian Buhk brought the latter up the order during the opening stint, with a later first pitstop putting Harold Primat up into third ahead of Lucas Wolf, who took over the #85 from Stef Dusseldorp.
Wolf soon claimed the place from his team-mate, who also dropped behind the hard-charging Nick Catsburg in his TDS Racing BMW. The #84 ended up back in third in the hands of Nico Verdonck, but the Belgian would be passed by the #85’s final driver Sergei Afanasiev late on.
Good driving from Edward Sandstrom, Stephane Ortelli and Gregory Guilvert kept the Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 in contention throughout despite suffering from a lack of straight-line speed, Guilvert following the two Mercedes across the line in fifth.
Catsburg and his two-stinting co-driver Henry Hassid ended up in sixth, claiming the Pro-Am honours. James Nash, Frank Stippler and Christopher Mies were the best of the WRT Audi crews in seventh ahead of the Pro-Am Scuderia Villorba Ferrari of Andrea Rizzoli, Stefano Gai and Francesco Castellacci.
Ninth was the Black Falcon Mercedes of Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Hubert Haupt and Andreas Simonsen, with the #35 Nissan dropping back to tenth overall and third in class after GT Academy graduates Stanislav Aksenov and Miguel Faisca had taken over the reigns.