Vincent Abril has become the newest Bentley Boy, with the Monegasque driver having signed with the British manufacturer last week to join the factory M-Sport squad in next year’s Blancpain Endurance Series.
Abril, who won the Blancpain Sprint Series championship with HTP Motorsport, joined the team over the winter months as it switched from Mercedes to Bentley.
“The start of the season was tough. The winter was not straightforward as the car, the team and my teammates were all new. So I was cautious with my ambitions and took it race by race,” Abril told Sportscar365.
“Things were not too bad performance wise at the beginning, but we had small issues with the car and we faced a setback with the big crash in practice at Brands Hatch.”
From then on Abril and his teammate Maxi Buhk were on the back foot and chasing the No. 1 WRT Audi of Robin Frijns and Laurens Vanthoor.
“For sure it played into our hand that the No. 1 car didn’t score any points at Misano,” Abril said about Vanthoor’s huge off. “Otherwise it would have been a completely different story.
“The finale at Zandvoort couldn’t have gone any better, winning both races. But still it was very competitive and nerve wracking as there were Audis all around us and Frijns finished only three tenths behind us.”
The 20-year old feels the Blancpain Sprint title was pivotal for his future, as he had set himself the goal a securing a factory drive as soon as possible.
“This title is a huge boost and for sure it helped a lot. I had a couple of options and my main focus is to stay in GT and build a good reputation.
“Every move I have made so far was pretty spot on and Bentley was an obvious choice. Malcolm Wilson and Brian Gush were really enthusiastic and to be wanted in a team makes it a lot easier. This factory deal was absolutely necessary for me.”
Abril will compete in the M-Sport run No. 7 Bentley Continental GT3 in the Blancpain Endurance races next year, where he replaces Andy Meyrick alongside Guy Smith and Steven Kane.
“It’s a winning car and they’ve ended up second in standings twice, so the pressure is on me,” he said. “My teammates are excellent professionals and I’m hoping to learn a lot from them.
“It’s an interesting lineup, with a perfect mix of speed and experience.”
Both sides only met for the first time on SRO’s awards ceremony in London last Friday.
While only the five Endurance races and the Sepang 12 Hours in December have been confirmed so far, Abril is also looking to defend his Sprint title.
“I’ve been a sprinter all my career, so it’s definitely on the radar, but we’re still looking into it,” he said.
Along with a couple of other Bentley factory and HTP drivers, Abril recently made his Nürburgring Nordschleife debut racing a BMW M235i Cup car in VLN, although he says he won’t rush to take part in the 24-hour race with limited experience.
With his manager and ex-Formula One ace Olivier Panis working on his own LMP2 project alongside French soccer star Fabien Barthez, Abril will also do some prototype testing during the winter months.
“I’d like to get grip of sports cars for the future. A lot of GT drivers are doing a one-shot at Le Mans, so that’s something I might consider one day, but I’m not really focused on that right now to be honest.”