Bentley will take a “graduated approach” toward customers that choose to run its cars in GT3 events next year despite the manufacturer removing its funding from the project.
Bentley last week announced that it will no longer operate a factory-led GT3 program after this year, but customer teams won’t be prevented from fielding cars in 2021.
The company’s motorsport director Paul Williams explained that customers choosing to stick with the Bentley Continental GT3 will continue to have parts supply available to them through M-Sport, which has been the works program partner and race car builder.
Bentley’s customer stable grew this year with teams including CMR, T3-HRT Motorsport and Lazarus establishing new programs in GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, ADAC GT Masters and International GT Open, respectively.
“We have a bit of a graduated approach to how we handle customers who are quite far into their planning for next year,” said Williams.
“At this point in the year, we didn’t want to say to them that there’s absolutely nothing for you to be able to get from us next year.
“I think in the year after that it would be completely possible to continue racing. We’ll make sure the cars stay homologated and stay legal.
“M-Sport will continue to sell parts, so we see that as a possibility to continue racing, but we are not going to invest money into it next year. That’s the difference.
“It’s a bit like the gen-one [Continental GT3] cars. There are still some gen-one cars running, but over time it becomes less and less. That will be the natural outcome of it.
“We want to be very clear that there’s a big swing in the direction we’re taking [as a manufacturer]. That’s the reason why we’ve taken quite a strong stance to say that we’re not going to stop our customers racing, and we’re not going to walk away, but we’re definitely not going to put money into developing that form of racing.”
Williams suggested that there will be no change in how M-Sport supports Bentley GT3 customers next year once the manufacturer investment goes away.
“That has been the structure, in any case, right from the beginning of the program,” he said.
“From a Bentley side, I’ve got a small team of engineers and people who work with customers and support them technically, but the bulk of the support and primary work has been done by M-Sport engineers.
“They’ve done all the parts supply and car builds, and they are committed to doing that for the customers.
“In terms of people who have bought the car, they can continue to race with the car should they choose to.
“The car continues to meet the regulations and we will make sure that they keep it correct with the FIA and the organizers so they can choose to race if they choose to.”
Even with M-Sport’s background structure remaining in place, existing customer teams are now facing decisions on whether they continue running Bentley Continental GT3s beyond the conclusion of the official factory-led program.
K-PAX Racing, which was one of three Bentley outfits competing in GTWC Europe Endurance Cup this season, is keeping its options open for the 2021 campaign and is evaluating other manufacturers in addition to Bentley which it has worked with since 2018.
“We do not have a final decision on what we’re doing, from a manufacturer standpoint,” said the American team’s program manager Darren Law.
“Bentley have offered to support us as a customer team through to the end of 2021, as they have with everybody.
“We are evaluating all options, working with Bentley and looking at other manufacturer programs as well. We haven’t made a decision and before the end of this month we will have a decision.
“M-Sport basically ran the support for the program, so I think a lot of things will stay the same with them, which is good because we got to know them well. It’s just about deciding what’s best for K-PAX, not only in 2021 but beyond.”
Bentley Looked at Continental GT3 Update
Williams revealed that Bentley opened a “study” into a new version of its GT3 car to coincide with the new set of FIA regulations coming online in 2022, but the company’s move to prioritize electrification led to its withdrawal from the category and prevented any future GT3 projects from materializing.
It’s understood that the contents of the 2022 FIA GT3 rulebook, which have not been publicly released in full, did not influence Bentley’s decision to quit the category.
“The program was very much loved and enjoyed inside Bentley,” said Williams.
“We’ve got lots of fans and people have absolutely enjoyed seeing that car on the track.
“There was a strong desire to continue with that and do a next-generation car, but at the moment GT3 does not align with a strong direction of sustainability.”
While Bentley’s factory drivers are being released at the end of this year, the company has retained its other staff that worked on the GT3 program by reassigning them to roles within the company’s Mulliner special projects branch, which is also led by Williams.
Mulliner is a historic coachbuilder and currently the label under which limited edition Bentley road car models are produced.
“During this year we did a restructure in the company,” Williams explained. “One of the things we did was combine the Mulliner division and the motorsport department.
“What we’ve done in the restructure is create a flexible organization involving people from the Mulliner side and from the motorsport side, which allows us to work on various types of projects depending on what we want to do.
“We have this flexible structure going forward which allows us to do more in motorsport if we choose to, and less if we choose to, using the people to develop work with those pinnacles of what Bentley’s customers are.”