4 April 2014
The Bentley name is poised to return for its first full-time motorsport programme in years as M-Sport pursues Blancpain success.
After months of development work, Team M-Sport Bentley is ready to take on the competition in the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series with its new Continental GT3.
Buoyed by a satisfying fourth place finish in the car's test race at the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi last December, and following the announcement of six new 'Bentley Boys', the team is confident of strong performance from the first competitive outing of 2014, in a three-hour race at Monza next weekend.
“The race at Monza is what we've been working towards for the last year, and we're ready for it,” Brian Gush, Bentley's Director of Motorsport, confirmed, “The car performed well at the series' test days at Paul Ricard, we have a motivated driver line-up, and the whole team is eager to get started. We're looking for a strong finish and get our season started as we intend to go on.”
The Bentley competitor is based on the acclaimed Continental GT V8 coupe road car, including its outstanding 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 engine, and M-Sport will field two cars throughout the season. The first, carrying #7, will be driven by the all-British driving team of former Bentley Le Mans champion Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane, while car #8 will be piloted by a European driver line-up comprising Belgian ex-F1 racer Jérôme d'Ambrosio, Englishman Duncan Tappy and Frenchman Antoine Leclerc.
“We've all worked so hard to get here,” Kane commented, “While the engineers and mechanics have been preparing the cars, Guy, Andy and I have been training hard every day to ensure we're in the best physical condition for what will be a gruelling set of races. I absolutely can't wait for Monza and the start of our season.”
Joining M-Sport Bentley after a brief time in F1 with Virgin Racing and Lotus, d'Ambrosio is keen to make the most of his switch to sportscars.
“I've been looking to make the switch to endurance racing for a while and, when the opportunity to race with such a famous marque as Bentley came up, I knew it was right,” he explained, “I've been hugely impressed with the team and the cars – I was at the Bentley factory last week and the attention to detail on both the road cars and the race cars is amazing. I'm really looking forward to working with Duncan and Antoine to deliver a great season for the team.”
The team's impressive turn of speed has already paid dividends, with a new sponsor coming forward after the Ricard test. Six years ago, Bentley announced the forming of an exclusive partnership with high-end British home audio manufacturer Naim to introduce a sound system exclusively for the Bentley model range. Now, Naim has extended its connection with the brand by sponsoring the race programme, with its logo set to appear both on the cars and the drivers' race suits. Naim joins existing Continental GT3 partners Mobil 1 and Breitling, who have also signed up for the year.
“Sponsoring Bentley's GT3 racing is a natural progression of our partnership,” CEO Paul Stephenson confirmed, “Their single-minded pursuit of pure performance is something which we can really identify with. As fellow champions of British engineering and design, we are incredibly proud to be supporting Team M-Sport Bentley in what I'm sure will be a hugely successful first season.”
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