Vincent Abril said he feels honored to have been selected by Bentley to represent the British manufacturer in Absolute Racing’s Pirelli World Challenge SprintX program, which kicks off next weekend at Virginia International Raceway.
The 2015 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup champion was confirmed this week as part of the Chinese team’s lineup, which will see Abril team up with Adderly Fong in the No. 88 Bentley Continental GT3.
While set to remain as an integral part of Bentley Team M-Sport’s lineup in both the Sprint and Endurance Cups, Abril admits he jumped at the opportunity to expand his horizons by also racing overseas this year.
“I’ve been doing Blancpain GT for, this is my fourth year now,” he told Sportscar365
“I think it’s one of the [fastest growing] championships and one of the biggest GT championships, but as a driver and more generally as a human being you want to go see different places, different things, different racing.
“For sure the U.S. in that regard is a great opportunity. To be a works driver, a young ambitious guy who wants to race around the world, to be sent by Bentley to represent them is a huge honor. For me it’s a confidence boost.
“I’m really proud and putting the work in to make it happen but definitely honored that they decided on me to represent them there.
“Hopefully this is the first step to a long career in the U.S. It’s really a good opportunity for me.”
Abril said he’s kept an eye on PWC since becoming a Bentley factory driver last year, knowing that an opportunity to race in the burgeoning sprint series could eventually materialize.
“With Bentley, you tend to look at where your customers are doing,” he said. “I’ve always had a look.
“Obviously the name of the championship is not new to me; I know about it.
“I know drivers like being sent by their factories like Kevin Estre and Pat Long. Alvaro [Parente]… I talked with him a bit about the championship. Just to be along these guys and to be sent by our respective manufacturers, you’re part of their brand in an important manner.
“The championship seems to be growing year by year and I think the fact that the SprintX now is coming, it’s going to make it even more international, even more high-level with the amount of drivers that are going to come in.”
While considered one of the leading drivers in the European GT sprint racing scene, Abril understands the task ahead in coming to grips with his new environment.
The 22-year-old Frenchman hasn’t raced, yet alone seen any of the five tracks on the SprintX calendar, but is confident that with the help of Fong and the team, will get quickly up to speed.
“Even if the championship is new, the car is the same, the tires are the same. It’s a new environment but I think it’s essential that we’re not changing too much,” Abril said.
“I’m going to be doing some simulators, studying the track, I’ve already watched some on-boards and stuff like that, but I think the team will prepare me.
“My teammate has now done a full season in PWC so he knows the tracks. He’s been doing great the last couple of races. For sure his experience is going to benefit me.”
With upwards of 30 entries expected for SprintX, including a number of high-profile lineups battling for overall honors in the Pro class, Abril realizes fighting for the championship won’t be an easy task, but feels he’s up to the challenge.
“Obviously when you go somewhere it’s to win, so this is a winning combo,” he said.
“I haven’t really looked at the entries yet, so I don’t really know who is driving where with what car. But on our side if we focus on doing the best job possible we can go for a championship.
“I’m always motivated 100 percent at everything I do, but adding a new championship that I don’t know, it’s a good motivation for me.
“For sure that’s the first thing I thought and the first thing Bentley thought as well: to win another championship for Bentley. I think that’s the whole idea behind that.”