Bentley Motorsport aims for championship title in Kyalami
Bentley Motorsport and its six works drivers head to Kyalami next week for the final round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. Together with M-Sport, which will make its debut as a privateer race team, to the target is to end the year with another race win to secure the drivers’ championship title.
Bentley started the 2020 season with victory at Bathurst 12 Hours, resulting in Maxime Soulet (BE), Jules Gounon (FR) and Jordan Pepper (ZA) going into the second round of the series – Indianapolis 8 Hour – as championship leaders. Following the third round at Spa, the trio are just three points off the championship lead, meaning a win in Kyalami would secure the drivers’ title.
Fellow works driver Seb Morris (GB), who was promoted to the elite squad following a championship win in the British GT Championship and outstanding performances in GT World Challenge Europe for Team Parker Racing, has played a lead role in establishing and driving forward Bentley Motorsport’s new customer racing teams and will re-join the top-flight series alongside Bathurst team-mates Al Buncombe (GB) and Oliver Jarvis (GB).
The return of M-Sport to the track comes after the British race and rally preparation outfit was keen to get its race-winning team back competing, following the closure of the Bentley works programme.The Cumbria-based team has partnered with Sparco for the event and, like other Bentley Motorsport customer teams this season, was offered the works drivers on loan.
M-Sport’s privateer entry in Kyalami 9 Hours means that four Bentley Motorsport customer teams have represented the manufacturer in the Intercontinental GT Challenge, with K-PAX Racing adding to the points tally at both Indianapolis and Spa.
The Kyalami 9 Hours will take place exactly seven years to the day since the first generation Continental GT3 made its competitive debut at the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi. It will also mark the final race for Bentley’s works drivers as the successful works-led GT3 programme is set to come to a natural end at the end of 2021 in line with the brand’s sustainability plans set out in its Beyond 100 strategy.
In the past seven years, Bentley has employed 16 world-class works drivers, and each is now firmly in the brand’s history books as having played a huge role in its motorsport history that spans almost 100 years.
While the works drivers are being released from their contracts at the end of 2020, some of Bentley’s customer teams will continue in 2021 and potentially beyond.
Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, Paul Williams, comments: “I want to start by saying thank you, on behalf of Bentley, to each of the 16 world-class drivers that have represented us over the last seven years. But special thanks go to Max Soulet, Jordan Pepper, Jules Gounon and Seb Morris who supported us when COVID put our works team programme on stop and who stepped-up to work incredibly hard for our customer teams in a compacted season.
“The Bentley Continental GT3 was launched in 2013 to prove and promote the performance of the road-going Continental GT and, by beating the likes of Ferrari and McLaren on track, we did exactly this. As Bentley moves rapidly towards becoming the world’s leading luxury sustainable mobility brand, the GT3 category no longer supports the strategy but there are some exciting changes in the industry right now and we are closely evaluating how motorsport can support the brand in the future.
“While it is always sad when a motorsport programme runs its natural course, we will all look at this with the same pride that we look at the successes of the 1920s and at the Speed 8 that won Le Mans – it is a fantastic chapter in our history but every chapter must end to make way for a new one.
“But first we need to focus on Kyalami. We have all six works drivers back together for the final time; we have Max, Jules and Jordan in with a real chance of taking the title; and we are ready to demonstrate that the Continental GT3 is still capable of competing at the top level. Thank you to M-Sport for getting out on track so we can complete our championship. Let’s send our drivers out on a high.”
Kyalami 9 Hours takes place on 10th-12th December. Fans can follow the action from all Bentley’s motorsport and esports action on social media by searching @BentleyRacing on Twitter and @BentleyRacingOfficial on Instagram.