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SMITH: Nürburgring Debrief

Guy Smith files his latest Sportscar365 column after Blancpain GT Endurance Cup season finale…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

It was very different heading into last weekend’s Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup Nürburgring race as, for the last two seasons, we have gone into the race fighting for the championship. However, this year, we were nowhere after a challenging season for the car No. 7 team.

However, it was still an important race for our team-mates in car No. 8, who had a chance to win the endurance drivers title, and for Bentley Team M-Sport to win the teams title.

The weekend started far from smoothly, with Steven Kane suffering a high-speed incident in free practice.

Unfortunately, this meant that the car was destroyed, and that we wouldn’t be able to take part in the rest of the test sessions. Luckily, we did have a car heading back to the UK from a test in Barcelona so it was swiftly diverted to Nürburgring and the car was swapped over during the Saturday evening.

But, the most important thing was that Steven was ok and fit to race the following day.

Qualifying was pretty much fogged-off with Q1 and Q2 being cancelled. Q3 ran in tricky mixed conditions but it was crucial that we were able to get car No. 7 out and effectively shake it down.

As we had changed car, we had to start the race from the pit lane, which was less than ideal, but we felt we would be able to get up amongst the lead pack by the end of the race. Car 8 started the race from 12th position and, with most of their championship rivals further back, they were looking in good shape.

At the start of the race, I managed to get into a good rhythm and began to make my way through the traffic, picking them off one-by-one. The Bentley Continental GT3 felt great and a credit to the M-Sport guys for doing such a fantastic job with it in such a short period of time.

Before the end of my stint, I had managed to pass 35 cars and hand over the car to Vince in 18th place. Vince did a superb job and continued the charge forward moving into the top 10.

Steven did a brilliant job getting back in the car still feeling a bit sore and we crossed the line in 9th place.

In the meantime, car 8 had suffered heartbreak with a stuck left rear wheel forcing them to leave it on during the first pit stop.

According to the rules, you have to change all four tires at each stop meaning they incurred an extra pit stop as a penalty. This dropped them down to 20th place and, even though their main rivals at McLaren had an even more eventful race, it was still enough for McLaren to hold onto the championship win.

A double whammy too was that we were tied on points for the team championship with Garage 59 and WRT but, due to the fact that Garage 59 had a win and we didn’t, they took the title.

It’s been a tough year but we have been competitive, we have just been very unlucky but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

We will be back next year and we will come back stronger!

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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