TCF writer Nick Smith visited the Paris Motor Show and spent time talking with many of the major motorsport brands. One of the newest, and oldest, brands in Motorsport is Bentley who actually launched their Continental GT3 car at the Mondial de l’Automobile Paris in 2012.
With two years gone and the first full season of racing under their belts, we spoke with Mike Sayer, Product and Motorsport Communications Manager for the brand, about the season that has been and the plans for 2015.
“We are immensely proud of what we have achieved so far. We were confident going into the season but it’s taken us a bit by surprise. We certainly weren’t expecting to win the cars second competitive race. On home soil, at the home of British motorsport in front of a great crowd from work. It was the place to do it.
“It was the first time a works Bentley had raced in the UK in 84 years, then we won again in Paul Ricard. In British GT at Silverstone it went well, Steven Kane did a really great job, then three weeks later at Paul Ricard we won again and had won two of the three races in the season so far. We were delighted.
“At that point we were hit with some slightly more restrictive Balance of Performance which took some pace out of the car. Particularly performance from the engine.
“At Spa we still had good pace, we suffered bad luck with both cars pretty early in the race. One was hit by another car and damaged the suspension while the other actually picked up a bit of debris in a wheel and machined a brake line. That dropped us right down the order and but we spent the rest of the race fighting back and both cars finished in the top 20 in their first 24 hour race.
“By that point we had proved to everyone and ourselves that we had a fast and reliable car. Then two weekends ago we ended up finishing the championship in second place in both the teams and drivers’ championship.”
Of course we had to comment on the size of the car affectionately known in the paddock as ‘the flying house-brick’. Bentley had this response for us:
“At the start of the season when we were hearing the comments of how it is such a big car, we were smiling a wry smile because we knew how much pace the car had. We only go racing to win, so we would have only gone racing if we expected to win and now we have. We didn’t expect it to happen so quickly but there you go.”
British fans will be more than familiar with the big Bentley not only from the Blancpain Endurance Series season but from two cars which started the Avon Tyres British GT Championship. Unfortunately the second of the two cars suffered severe damage at the Silverstone 500. We addressed that point in as tactful a way as we could.
“It was tricky, it was unfortunate. We were enjoying working with Generation Bentley Racing. The issue at Silverstone was with a modification they had done that didn’t work so well. It’s a shame they decided to pull out and sell their car.
The Generation Bentley team continued their programme to Spa but were unfortunately unable to carry on with the remainder of the British GT season. The car is now for sale with interest from a number of parties but is still with the team at this time.
“Our support for them was unwavering and we always wanted to continue working with them. Obviously we wish them well for whatever their next motorsport adventure is.”
Obviously the question burning in everyone’s mind is when not if we will see a Continental GTE at Le Mans. The company are still remaining tight lipped about plans to battle Ferrari, Corvette and Aston Martin at Le Sarthe saying:
“What we are waiting for with Le Mans is for the rules to change. We had high hopes for the convergence rules but what we are focusing on at the moment is the GT3. Le Mans is a tricky one because in history Bentley is only into races that we can win outright, not class wins. So Le Mans is a conundrum for us. There is a huge amount of company history in there and it’s the ultimate draw but we have our group colleagues competing in LMP1.”
So what is in the pipeline for 2015 in the world of Bentley Motorsport then? We asked the question, not really expecting an answer ahead of the traditional season launch event, AUTOSPORT International. Still we did get some exciting tidbits about the mountain and the ring.
“You will find out soon enough, we are announcing our plans for next season soon. I think you can assume that Blancpain is high on our agenda and we are looking at an extended programme next year. We are looking to build on what we have achieved this year, particularly with more endurance racing and a bigger customer programme.
“We’ve got Dyson Racing in the US doing a fantastic job. We have customers in China and in Australia and in the Middle East.
“Maranello Motorsport have brought a car and are looking to run at Bathurst next year. They are very excited, they came in and met the team, drove the car and were very impressed by it. They have decided to take the leap and we are excited to be working with them. The mountain is looking a distinct possibility but we will be formally announcing our plans at AUTOSPORT in January.”
The return of the Bentley Motorsport name is also on the cards as the Continental prepares to take on the Green Hell.
“The big thing for us is a project we have started in the team for next year which we have dubbed NBR2015. That’s our quest to race in the Nurburgring 24 next year. So we are going to be doing two VLN races this month, not as any sort of competition. We are not looking to go and race and win but we are trying to test and develop the car ahead of that 24 hour race next year.
“That will be as Bentley Motorsport but we will be supported by M-Sport.”