Bentley looks to build on Paul Ricard success in 2019
Bentley Team M-Sport is aiming to build on its strong showing in the last two years at France’s Circuit Paul Ricard at the third round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup.
The Bentley racing drivers piloting last year’s number 7 Continental GT3 car scored a second-place finish at the challenging French Grand Prix track in 2018 and the same trio of drivers will be looking to go one better this year, emulating the number 8 car that took victory at Paul Ricard in 2017.
As the only race of the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup season to finish under floodlights, Circuit Paul Ricard never fails to provide a spectacle. This anticipation combines with Bentley’s centenary celebrations to amplify the significance of the event for Bentley Team M-Sport.
In southern France a short distance from the Mediterranean coastline, Circuit Paul Ricard provides a unique challenge, with long straights, heavy braking zones and fast, sweeping corners combining to test both driver and machine to the limit.
A year on from their first race as a trio, Jordan Pepper (ZA), Steven Kane (GB) and Jules Gounon (FR) are looking to climb one step higher than they did on the 2018 podium, eyeing victory in car number 107 Continental GT3.
Car number 108 Continental GT3 will see previous Circuit Paul Ricard 1000kms race-winners Andy Soucek (ES) and Maxime Soulet (BE) line up alongside debutant Callum Macleod (GB), who comes in to gain valuable seat time ahead of this year’s Total 24 Hours of Spa (July 25-28) – the highlight of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup season.
Bentley customer outfit, Team Parker Racing, will run the third and final Bentley Continental GT3 on the grid in the Pro-Am Cup at Paul Ricard, with Derek Pierce (GB), Rob Smith (GB) and Sebastian Morris (GB) piloting the car 31 challenger.
Recent success for customer teams running the Continental GT3 will provide added impetus, with Team Parker’s podium at the Snetterton 300 and K-PAX Racing’s dominance of the Blancpain GT World Challenge series highlighting the car’s potential.
Bentley's Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush, said: "Bentley Motorsport and the Continental GT3 have had a very strong start to the year, with five race wins and nine podiums already to our name, thanks to our customer teams K-PAX Racing, Team Parker Racing and JRM, who, in fact, took an overall race win in their first outing with the car. It’s time that we replicated this in the highest level of GT3 racing, the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup.
“Paul Ricard is the right place for us to do this - it’s where we have had most success since our programme started. There is definitely a case of unfinished business after last year's race, where a bonnet fixing came loose on the final lap preventing us from holding on to the lead. That was one of the toughest final laps I can recall in my career, but that is what spurs us on to fight for the win on our return to Paul Ricard.”
Ahead of his home race, car 107 pilot Jules Gounon commented: “It feels amazing to be back racing in France. We have some unfinished business at Paul Ricard, having just missed out on the win last year.
“The track is very challenging, with long and fast corners that make the 6-hour race physically intense. The team is very focussed and ready for this challenge though and we will continue to work hard to get the win.”
Callum Macleod, who steps into the #108 machine, added: “Racing at Circuit Paul Ricard is the ideal preparation in the lead up to Spa, but it's equally important that we get the best result we can here as well.
“The Continental GT3 has run well here in the past, it's really strong through the medium to high speed corners and is mega on the brakes. I'm really looking forward to getting out on track in testing and learning as much as I can from the works team drivers before the race.”
The third round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000kms, takes place on Saturday 1 June at the Circuit Paul Ricard. Fans can follow the action on Twitter using @BentleyRacing and on Instagram using @BentleyRacingOfficial.
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