17 June 2014
Dyson returns Bentley to US sportscar scene
'Bentley Boys' Butch Leitzinger and Guy Smith will be entrusted with the Continental GT3 as British marque debuts in Pirelli World Challenge.
After an absence of more than a decade, Bentley Motors is competing again on the racing circuits of North America, beginning this weekend at Road America.
Dyson Racing Team Bentley is fielding a Bentley Continental GT3 in the Pirelli World Challenge with Butch Leitzinger, a championship-winning driver with long-time connections to both halves of the new Anglo-American motorsports partnership, at the helm, having announced a multi-year agreement to support the company's motorsport activities in North America. Dyson Racing Team Bentley will compete with Bentley's Continental GT3 in the second half of the Pirelli World Challenge in preparation for a full season of competition in 2015.
“Motorsport is an integral part of Bentley's DNA and we're excited to return to the racetrack in North America,” said Christophe Georges, president and CEO of Bentley Motors Inc, “We're thrilled to work with the successful Dyson Racing organisation. Like Bentley, they have an established and valued history in motorsports. The team has been hard at work preparing for this first race and we are excited for our customers and fans to see and hear the exhilarating Continental GT3 on the track.”
The race marks the return of Bentley Motors to North American racing for the first time since the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2003, when the company's two Speed 8s finished first and second in the Le Mans GTP class. The Road America weekend will also be the Dyson team's first race of the 2014 season, having most recently competed with a Lola prototype sports car at the ten-hour Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in October 2013.
“Racing a production-based car is a new challenge for our team,” vice-president and sporting director Chris Dyson admitted, “We're proud to be taking up this task in conjunction with our new partners at Bentley Motors. We know we'll be facing strong competition in the Pirelli World Challenge, but our first test with the Continental GT3 went very well and we're confident we're bringing an excellent race car to Elkhart Lake.”
Road America will also mark Leitzinger's return to the Dyson Racing roster, having shared 20 years of history with the team. He first drove for Dyson Racing in the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona, but also has a strong record with Bentley, racing for the British team in the 2001 and 2002 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Working with both Bentley and Dyson together is a happy development for me,” said Leitzinger, whose lengthy professional racing career includes numerous victories in both prototype and production-based race cars, “Chris and Rob [Dyson] had been speaking with me about an undefined project they had in mind and I was of course interested in renewing my relationship with them and the team. I also knew that Bentley was getting back into racing, this time with a racing version of the Continental. To my surprise these two projects turned out to be the same – and happily, I'll be driving.”
Leitzinger noted that the well-established relationship he has with the Dyson technical staff will help get the effort up to full speed quickly despite joining the series near the mid-point of the season.
Driving assignments for the four race meets following Elkhart Lake will be shared among Leitzinger, Dyson and Guy Smith, who has been a 'Bentley Boy' since he won the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Bentley Speed 8. Smith also drove one of the Speed 8s at their last American appearance at Sebring in 2003. In addition, Smith was a development driver for the Bentley Continental GT3 programme and races a Continental GT3 in the European Blancpain Series. He drove the winning car at the series' most recent round at Silverstone, giving Bentley their first-ever win at the famous track and Bentley's first victory since Le Mans in 2003.
“Selecting the drivers for this Anglo-American programme was the easy part,” Dyson conceded, “Both Butch, who's American, and Guy, a Brit, have strong and enduring ties to Bentley and to Dyson Racing. Most importantly, they are both experienced veterans who are fast and who know how to win.
“The Pirelli World Challenge races are all sprint events, so the racing is flat out from the start and a driver has to be able to get to the front quickly and still bring the car home in one piece. Both Guy and Butch can do that. They are a formable pair for sure.”
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