Vincent Abril believes Bentley Team M-Sport’s driver reshuffle, which will see the second-year factory driver split his season between both the Nos. 7 and 8 Bentley Continental GT3s, is “a good move” as the British manufacturer seeks an elusive title in the Blancpain GT Series.
The 22-year-old Frenchman will partner Maxime Soulet and Andy Soucek in the No. 8 Bentley for the five-round Endurance Cup, while returning to the No. 7 car alongside Steven Kane for the Sprint rounds.
The 2015 Sprint Cup champion admitted that while he enjoyed working with Kane and Guy Smith last season, he is still confident about fitting in with the drivers and crew on the other side of the garage.
“It was a bit of a, not a shock, but a move,” he told Sportscar365. “I think it’s ultimately, if you look at it, it’s a good move I think.
“I always felt great with Steven and Guy, but these guys are a bit younger and French-speaking so the transition [seemed] natural.
“I had a great time with Steven and Guy, but it’s out of my control and it’s what the team felt was the best fit. I’m not complaining; the opposite, I think it’s a really good match.
“The shuffle that happened this year was just a case of [putting] everyone in the best position possible to win overall. In that regard, with driver lineups, they got it spot on.”
With Audi LMP1 refugee Oliver Jarvis replacing Abril in the No. 7 car for the Endurance Cup, the youngest Bentley Boy believes not having a full-season co-driver for all ten rounds will give him a chance to stand out even more.
“I like it, honestly,” he said. “It puts me in a position where more or less, if I do a good job, I can be the best Bentley driver overall.”
Having graduated to the factory M-Sport-run team for 2016, Abril is certain that the experience he picked up in his first year with the team will pay dividends this season.
“I knew that we had pace last year, we just didn’t have everything going our way,” he explained.
“Whether it was luck or mechanical problems, I think in the Endurance rounds last year we could have won a few big races but it didn’t come to us.
“Sprint was a little more difficult with, obviously, a lot of turnover between cars and all of those cars focused towards Sprint.
“It was a bit difficult in terms of on the track, but off the track it made me a way better driver, a better person, and I just keep on learning. It’s a job now. You’re not chasing for it, it’s a job.
“You have to take into account that it’s not just you, it’s a lot of different things around it.
“I’m having a good time, getting to travel to places like Bathurst and all of those other races which is pretty cool.”
He also expressed his enjoyment of working with Bentley and M-Sport, and how easy it has been for him to fit into the new car for this season.
“Here you feel, as much as M-Sport is a great team and a great family-oriented team, you feel that it’s a factory effort and it’s something you have to take into account,” he said. “I like it.
“It felt natural. Last year we were always talking, always exchanging. In that regard they really fit me well into the team. So far, so good. We’re running well, so looking forward to it.”
John Dagys contributed to this report