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ABRIL: Zolder Debrief

Vince Abril’s latest Sportscar365 column after up-and-down Zolder weekend…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

You know how they say it’s the end result that matters and not how you got there? Well, this weekend we got what we wanted but we had one heck of a hard road to success.

The odds were stacked against us but I couldn’t be more proud of my crew at Bentley Team M-Sport, which helped take us from 22nd to fifth in Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup at Zolder.

When we arrived at Zolder, the seventh of seven back-to-back race weekends for me, it was apparent quite quickly that the Audis were going to rule the weekend.

So, the plan was to be the front-running non-Audi and take as many points as possible towards our championship campaign.

With Qualifying 1 disrupted with a red flag, I didn’t get chance to lay down a good lap time. Still, I handed over to [Steven Kane] to see what he could do in session two.

Both Kaney and Max [Soulet] (in our sister car) really struggled to get the most out of the tires. Pair that with our lack of pace and we didn’t make it into Q3. In fact, we qualified back in 22nd place.

As you can imagine, we were a bit frustrated but, instead of giving up or complaining, we sat down and began working on our race strategy.

The qualifying race allows you to climb through the pack ready to make an attack in the main race but it’s not that simple at Zolder as the track is narrow and there are few overtaking places.

We were going to have to have some incredible racecraft and the pit stop of all pit stops!

Kaney started the race and, despite a lap one safety car that hindered him a little, he had climbed up to 16th by the time the pit window was opened.

The pit crew sprung into action and completed the second fastest pit stop of the race, climbing us three positions on track in the meantime.

I exited in 13th, in the middle of a fantastic battle with Marcel Fassler, which was great fun but prevented me from climbing much further.

After 25 minutes, I crossed the line in 12th, ten positions higher than we started.

On Sunday, we had to do it all again. I started this race in 12th and began climbing through the pack. I was pushing hard and managed to hand over to Kaney in ninth.

The pit crew didn’t let us down and jumped us two places so we exited in seventh. Kaney applied the pressure on the pair of Mercedes-AMGs ahead and, when the two became caught-up with each other on the pit straight, he passed to take fifth.

With four Audis ahead as we crossed the line, we did what we had set out to achieve and took maximum points.

It just shows… you can do anything if you never give up. The data shows we were down on pace but winning races takes more than a fast car.

You need mature race craft and driving talent, a flawless pit strategy and, most of all, a belief that you can succeed even when the odds are stacked against you. 

It’s been a long run of racing for me, doing seven weekends in a row and flying back and forth between the U.S. and Europe but it’s been awesome.

Now it’s time to get some rest before we head to my home Blancpain GT Series race at Paul Ricard on June 24. You’ll find me on the beach, this weekend!

Vincent Abril (@VinceAbril) is the 2015 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Champion and Bentley factory driver, driving for Bentley Team M-Sport in the Blancpain GT Series.

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