M-Sport Bentley claimed its second win in a row in the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series at Paul Ricard this past weekend. After an absence in motorsports for a decade, Bentley returned in 2014 and has so far dominated the PRO class with their drivers leading the standings. The winning car was the No.7 Bentley Continental GT3 of Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane. This was the third round of the Blancpain Endurance Series which went down at the famous Le Castellet.
The M-Sport team finished 1.1 seconds ahead of the resilient No.98 ART Grand Prix McLaren of Parente-Demoustier-Lapierre. Rounding of the top three in the PRO class was the No.85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes of Wolf-Afanasiev-Dusseldorp, the battle for third was a Mercedes affair between two of HTP’s Mercedes SLS AMGs. The race had started with the then championship leader of the No.99 ART Grand Prix McLaren retiring after a suspension damage.
The No.98 ART McLaren was leading the race with the No.35 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan of Katsumasa Chiyo in second. The No.7 Bentley Continental GT3 came flying past the Nissan and settled in second and within no time the Bentley snatched the lead away from the McLaren extending the gap to nine seconds. The gap reduced over time in the 3-hour race, nevertheless, the Bentley still maintained the lead ahead of the McLaren. Sister car No.8 Bentley retired with suspected transmission damage.
Coming down to the PRO-AM class, the No.12 TDS Racing BMW Z4 of Catsburg and Hassid triumphed flawless by finishing first and sixth overall. Scuderia Villorba Corse took their Ferrari 458 Italia home in second with Andrea Rizzoli, Stefano Gai and Francesco Castellacci behind the wheel. The No.35 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 of Stanislav Aksenov, Miguel Faisca and Katsumasa Chiyo finished in third in this class.
In the Gentleman class, the win went to Team GT Corse by Rinaldi with their Ferrari 458 Italia, piloted by Pierre Ehret, Alexander Mattschull and Frank Schmickler. Second in this class was yet another Ferrari 458 Italia that of AF Corse driven by Filipe Barreiros, Peter Mann and Francisco Guedes. In fact, Ferrari swept all the three podium finishes in the GTR class, third place going to Scuderia Villorba Corse with pilots Cedric Mezard and Francois Perrodo. The fourth, fifth and sixth places were also taken up by Ferrari.
Blancpain Endurance Series will be back in action for the 24 Hours of Spa on the 23rd of July, before that teams will converge for the official test of the same race on 2nd of July.
Guy Smith (#7 M-Sport Bentley):
We are all looking forward to Spa now. I realise that there are double points for grabs, but we will absolutely be going for the win. Spa is the biggest race of the year, and even though it is fantastic to win here at Le Castellet, winning Spa is what everybody wants.
Sergei Afanasiev (#85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes):
It was a fantastic fight at the end, but among team-mates we had to keep it clean. I was faster than Nico, but I had to find a way around him. I spent most of the stint looking for a way to pass, and when I did, he immediately overtook me again. I managed to get back in front, though. This result should get us going for the rest of the season, in the Blancpain Sprint Series as well.
Nicolas Lapierre (#98 ART Grand Prix McLaren):
This was my first GT-race since a long time, first time in a McLaren as well, so I had to be careful in the beginning of my stint. When the temperatures dropped, I managed to get closer to the Bentley. I was not yet sharp enough in lapping the backmarkers though, so I have to work on that. Still, I think this was an excellent preparation for Spa.
#7 Smith/Meyrick/Kane – M-Sport Bentley 88laps
#98 Demoustier/Lapierre/Parente – ART Grand Prix McLaren +1.178
#85 Wolf/Afanasiev/Dusseldorp – HTP Motorsport Mercedes +49.206
#84 Primat/Verdonck/Buhk – HTP Motorsport Mercedes +50.015
#26 Sandström/Ortelli/Guilvert – Sainteloc Racing Audi +50.550
#12 Hassid/Catsburg – TDS Racing BMW +57.645
#3 Mies/Nash/Stippler – Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi +1 :05.582
#90 Rizzoli/Gai/Castellacci – Scuderia Villorba Corse Ferrari +1 :09.557
#19 Haupt/Al Faisal/Simonsen – Black Falcon Mercedes +1 :29.645
#35 Aksenov/Faisca/Chiyo – Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan +1 :49.042
First GTR #458 Ehret/Mattschull/Schmickler – GT Corse by Rinaldi Ferrari 2LAPS