M-Sport Bentley broke through to claim victory in the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Silverstone. Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane overcame a drive through penalty to win Bentley’s first international race since Le Mans in 2003.
Alvaro Parente took the lead into Copse Corner and within two laps he was almost four seconds clear of the rest of the field, with Smith and Kevin Estre chasing the Portuguese driver, until the Bentley was handed a drive through penalty for improving under yellow just over 45 minutes in.
The No. 98 McLaren was the last of the two ART Grand Prix cars to make its first stop and Gregoire Demoustier returned it in front of team mate Kevin Korjus, but on lap 34 the Estonian passed his French colleague and moved the No. 99 car into the lead.
Korjus extended his lead to 34.102 seconds before handing over the McLaren MP4-12C GT3 to Andy Soucek for the final stint, while Alexandre Premat took over the wheel of the second McLaren from Demoustier.
Despite the drive through, Meyrick got the No. 7 Bentley back into second place and Kane returned the Bentley right between the two McLarens as he rejoined after taking over from Meyrick.
With 42 minutes remaining in the race and just after Joe Osborne had pitted the No. 38 MP Motorsport AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 from the overall lead, which he had taken by staying out on track when the McLarens came in for their second stop, the safety car was deployed when the No. 128 Horse Power Racing Aston crashed at the Hangar Straight.
Soucek pulled away at the restart, but not for long as Kane soon began to put in fast sector times and the Bentley closed in again on the No. 99 McLaren and at the end of the 77th lap he put the Bentley next to the McLaren out of Luffield and took the lead on the straight.
Kane pulled away and secured Bentley’s first win for the Continental GT3 and the manufacturer’s first win since winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2003 with the Bentley Speed 8 – with Kane’s teammate Smith part of that line-up as well.
“We got the drive through and we dropped right down,” Smith said. “But the guys did a fantastic pit stop that gained us two spots in the pits.
“Andy drove a great, great stint, going to the front and Steven in the end there was fantastic. It was a really great team effort. All of the guys worked so hard for this.”
Soucek finished 2.583 seconds behind in second. An impressive stint by Laurens Vanthoor was rewarded, as the young Belgian overtook Gregory Guilvert on the last lap, securing third place for Belgian Audi Club Team WRT.
Pro-Am Cup class honors went to the No. 80 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 of Alex Buncombe, Florian Strauss and American Nick McMillen, in only his second-ever Blancpain Endurance Series race.
The trio finished 8th overall, repeating the British squad’s class win here one year ago.
“To come home with a win is very, very good,” Buncombe said. “We were fast in Monza as well but it didn’t really go to plan there. I’m so pleased for everyone involved. It’s a repeat performance from what we did here last year.”