It’s been 84 years since a Works-affiliated Bentley raced here in the UK – that was in the RAC Tourist Trophy at Ards near Belfast when a Bentley Blower driven by Herbert Kensington Moir came 11th.
Fast forward to 2014 and it was Silverstone’s turn to shape history when the all-new Continental GT3 competed at the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series.
It was only the second competitive outing for the M-Sport run Continental GT3 – the first Bentley racer for a decade, but nonetheless the #7 car driven by Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane crossed the finish line 2-seconds ahead of the #99 ART Grand Prix McLaren driven by Andy Soucek, Kevin Estre and Kevin Korjus.
While the Continental GT3 showed good pace in the opening round of the series in Monza, the team were confident it would suit Silverstone’s high-speed corners even more.
As with any good story, the journey was far from easy. Starting from 4th place, Smith was able to move the #7 car up to 2nd before being passed by the #99 McLaren on lap 15, after being boxed in by slower traffic.
A few laps later and both Bentleys (including the #8 car driven by Jérôme D’Ambrosio, Duncan Tappy and Antoine Leclerc) were given drive-through penalties for improving their sector times while under a yellow flag. That dropped the #7 car down to 7th, but a fast pit-stop recovered two of those places before Andy Meyrick took the wheel, moving up a further two places into 3rd by lap 38.
By the time Kane took the wheel he was 21 seconds behind the #99 McLaren, but 42 minutes from the end the #128 Horse Power Racing Aston Martin crashed, bringing out a safety car and compressing the field.
The race was on, with Kane closing on Soucek, eventually passing the #99 McLaren with 20 minutes to go. Despite a frantic battle, the #7 Bentley crossed the finish line 2 seconds ahead of the McLaren, claiming the marque’s first victory on British soil since ‘well before’ 1930.
“Today has been epic,” said Kane after the race. “In the race, the car was fantastic, especially with how well it looked after its tyres. That gave me the grip and traction I needed to take the lead in to Brooklands, and after that we knew we could hold first place. Standing on the top step of the podium with Guy and Andy was a very, very special moment and I now know I can call myself a true Bentley Boy.”
GT Academy claims the Pro-Am spoils
Further down the field the #80 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan spent most of the race fighting the #38 MP Motorsport AMR Aston Martin driven by Richard Abra, Mark Poole and Joe Osborne.
After losing the lead to Osborne in the Pro-Am class, Nissan driver Florian Strauss managed to retake it during the final stint after an inconsistent drive by 2013 GT Academy USA winner Nick McMillen.
“I tried really hard to be consistent today,” said McMillen “and to be honest (it) didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but it was a great team effort and I’m delighted to be taking the winner’s trophy home with me.”
Strauss and McMillen shared the car with Nissan regular Alex Buncombe, who returns this season to defend the team’s 2013 Blancpain Pro-Am title.
The teams gear up for the next Blancpain Endurance race on Saturday 28th June at Paul Ricard in France, after switching their attention to Le Mans in a fortnight’s time.
Credits: Kevin Mc Glone at Red Square Images; Bentley Motors (chequered flag image).