As the Blancpain Endurance Series reached its conclusion last weekend at the Nürburgring, Sportscar365.com caught up with Bentley’s CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer.
Both M-Sport and the Bentley Boys battled the difficult conditions at the German Eifel circuit to secure runner-up spots in the team and drivers championships, despite only finishing 8th and 12th overall.
“The results we’ve achieved this year were beyond our expectations. Nobody ever thought that Bentley was going to be so fast and so strong right from the beginning,” Dürheimer told Sportscar365.com.
“The victories in Silverstone, Paul Ricard and in the U.S really brought our car and the team in the center of attention, and as a result we seem to be very attractive partner for a lot of teams. We’re getting a lot of calls from people exploring the possibilities for the future.”
Bentley already confirmed it will return to the Blancpain Endurance Series in 2015.
“It will be at least with the setup that we had this year, but I see more cars in 2015 than we had this year,” Dürheimer said.
The GT3 program turned out to be a straightforward choice for the Crewe-based manufacturer.
“Bentley could have done other things as well, but nothing would fit as GT3 does at present,” Dürheimer said. “Of course in 2003 it was the last victory for the LMP car, but we think that the GT3 program is more beneficial to our present setup on the market and situation of the company in general than doing a prototype program.”
The fact that both Porsche and Audi are already competing against each other in the LMP1 class was another factor in the decision to head to GT3.
“In the Volkswagen Group we have 12 brands in total. Out of these brands, nine are racing. The race directors and technicians meet on organized meeting structure and of course we are exchanging relevant information, but not everything is shared in terms of competitiveness.”
However, a return to Le Mans might not be entirely out of the question as Bentley might find its way to the grid with its current Continental GT racer.
“We are in discussion, we are analyzing the rules and of course we are also thinking about what it would take to make a GTE car out of our current car. We did not take a decision that we will go back to Le Mans at present, but that could change.
“The North American sanctioning body IMSA is also in close discussion with the ACO and maybe an opportunity will open up in the future,” he added.
After scoring its first-ever victory in the U.S. at Miller Motorsports Park in the penultimate race of the Pirelli World Challenge season, Bentley is also trying to make the Continental GT3 a winning car around the globe.
“Dyson Racing is our core partner in the U.S.,” Dürheimer said. “We are not looking for quantity, we only look for quality. In the U.S., we are in discussion with other teams, but no decisions have been taken yet.
“It is our intention to [grow] our program on a global scale. That means we are not limiting ourselves to Europe and the U.S., we will also go to China and other regions.
“We will not increase our program to a dramatic size, we want to stay exclusive and selective as we are in the car business as well, so there will not be an inflation of Bentleys on the track.”
Heading into 2015, the British automaker doesn’t feel that the Continental GT3 needs a lot of work to remain competitive, while new cars join the grid and extensive upgrades are once again allowed after a two-year freeze.
“We don’t need to introduce a real upgrade package because we only have a few cars up until now, they are under our control anyhow” Dürheimer said. “There will be minor little tweaks and optimizations but the car will basically look the same as it does right now.”
M-Sport Bentley will end its season by returning to the ‘Ring twice in October, already preparing the second big enduro challenge for the Continental GT3.
“We will compete in the final two VLN races this year, to collect data, to understand the setup of our car for the Nürburgring Nordschleife in preparation for the 24-hour race next year,” Dürheimer said.
In addition, the team is working on an entry in the Dubai 24 early next year.
“The final decision has not yet been made, but I think our chance to race in the Dubai 24 Hours is above 60 percent,” Dürheimer said.
“Dubai and the Middle East is a great market for us. We have very capable racers from the region and we think that we can have a lot of attraction to our Bentley lineup if we also race in this region.”