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SMITH: Monza Debrief

Guy Smith checks into Sportscar365 following Monza…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

It’s great to be back in the Bentley Team M-Sport Continental GT3 in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. After finishing second the last two seasons we really want to try and get the championship win this year.

Year-on-year the series just gets stronger and stronger. I think GT3 racing is at a real high right now – you only have to look at the number of cars racing and the quality of the field to see that.

This year, there is a change in the No. 7 Continental GT3 line-up, with last year’s Blancpain Sprint Series champion Vincent Abril joining Steven and myself.

We are working hard to integrate him into the team and into the way we all work together.

I couldn’t think of a better circuit than Monza to kick off the year. The place is so full of atmosphere and is steeped in racing history. Typically, in the series you don’t get many laps to ease yourself into it, so you really have to get your bum into gear and get on with it.

Usually you find yourself exiting the pit lane and joining a gaggle of about six cars all jostling for the same piece of tarmac but that’s what make the series so much fun to be a part of.

Our weekend started off pretty well, like most people we did most of our practice running on old tires, so it makes it quite difficult to get a good read on the car, but in general we all felt quite happy with he things going into qualifying.

Vince and I did Q1 and Q2 and Steven was in for Q3. The car felt really good and we felt we had a shot for the top eight but, unfortunately, as Steven started his qualifying run he noticed a lack of power and was unable to put in a proper qualifying lap, which left us P39 on the grid for the start of the race…

Not really where you want to be and especially not at Monza with such a tight first corner!

I was given starting duties for our car and my aim was to just survive the first lap and try and make a place or two up if possible. More importantly, I had to keep the car in the race so we could try and rescue some points.

I managed to get a good start and made up 13 places on lap one. It was a bit fraught, I can tell you, and there were bits of cars flying around all over the place.

I think I lost my front grill pretty early on but I was still able to move us up well into the top-20 by the end of my stint before handing over to Vince.

A fantastic pit stop by the team and a strong stint Vince saw us move into the top-10 before he handed over to Steven.

Steven left the pits and we were now running in 7th, which was amazing considering where we started and far better than we expected.

But, then we got a call from race control that we had to take a drive-through penalty for a pit lane infringement and it dropped us down to P14 at the finish.

Its really disappointing, as we genuinely could have been 6th and that would have felt like a win given the starting position. We would also have a nice haul of points to start the season with but, as they say, ‘that’s racing’!

Onto the next round now and we are looking forward to our home race at Silverstone where we scored the Bentley Continental GT3’s first-ever win.

We will be trying our very best to give the British fans something to cheer about as we try and get back on the top step of the podium.

Guy Smith (@TheGuySmith) is the 2003 winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and former American Le Mans Series champion, driving for the factory M-Sport Bentley squad in the Blancpain Endurance Series.

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