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SMITH: Spa Debrief

Guy Smith checks into Sportscar365 following 24H Spa…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

The 24 Hours of Spa is without doubt the biggest race of the season for all the GT3 teams and drivers, and last weekend’s race saw Bentley tackle the twice-around-the-clock endurance event for the third time.

It’s a race that has been pretty cruel to us, in the past. In our first attempt, in 2014, we had a damaged brake line caused by debris on track, which dropped us down to 13th position and.

Last year, we crashed out in the fifth hour scoring no points. In truth, we could have won the championship both years had we had a better Spa.

This year was slightly different as, in car No. 7, we are out of the running for the championship. This gave us a different approach to the event and that was to go all out for the win.

The pre-race test had gone really well for us and the Continental GT3 felt really good around the 7km circuit and we left the test full of confidence heading into the race.

As we hit the track for Thursday’s practice session, the track felt quite different from the test. There was very little grip, possibly due to the fact that there had been a 25-hour Fun Cup race earlier in the month.

It took us quite a bit of time to dial the car set-up back in and, in reality, it took until the race itself until we really felt happy with it.

We had made it through to Super Pole with both cars which was great and in Super Pole itself Maxime Soulet finished in third place and Steven ended up in 10th place having made a small mistake on his best lap.

There was drama right from the start for our car, as a fuel pump issue meant that we had to start the race from the pit lane, which was less than ideal.

However, as the race began to settle down we started to make our way up the order and, by the end of the third hour, we had made it into the top three and, depending on the pit stop cycle, we were in the lead!

It was great for Bentley with both cars running firmly in the top three and proving to have the pace to win the race.

Unfortunately, at the 14-hour mark car No. 7 suffered a power steering issue forcing us to pit for around 17 minutes and dropping us down the order.

We got back on track again and began to fight our way back up the order. In the meantime, car No. 8 was running in the top-two and in a great battle with the Rowe Racing BMW.

We eventually finished in 18th place and car No. 8 fought to the end only to lose out on the lead in the final pit stop after being caught out with the safety car. They had to settle for fourth.

It does feel like a missed opportunity for Bentley but at the same time both cars were in with a chance of winning and both cars finished, underlining the pace and reliability of the Continental GT3.

Spa has been cruel to us again but you can be sure we will be back again next year!

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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