It’s been a dream start to M-Sport Bentley’s campaign in the Blancpain Endurance Series, with the factory British squad heading into this weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa on the heels of back-to-back victories.
Yet for Andy Meyrick, who along with co-drivers Guy Smith and Steven Kane enter the double points-paying fourth round of the season as Pro-Cup championship leaders, the stakes have been raised with a lot on the line, as the Continental GT3 makes its 24-hour race debut.
While the V8-powered beast finished 4th in it race debut in December’s Gulf 12 Hours at Abu Dhabi, which was split into two six-hour races, it has been the longest race it has contested to date. Yet reliability isn’t a concern, according to Meyrick.
“I think all of the preparation we’ve done is what you’d expect from Bentley,” he told Sportscar365. It’s been very detailed. We’ve done a lot of endurance testing and some 24-hour endurance tests going back as far as October or November of last year before the car’s debut in Abu Dhabi.
“The car’s reliability is very good. Obviously anything can happen in a 24-hour race and Spa is notoriously very hard on the drivers and the car. It’s going to be a tough race and there’s some really strong cars. But we’ve got a good package so far, as it’s been proven, this year.”
While having shown the pace in its BES debut at Monza, Meyrick and co. broke through to score the car’s maiden win in Silverstone, marking Bentley’s first win on home soil in more than 80 years.
The historic occasion was backed up by a thrilling, down-to-the-wire battle with the ART GP McLaren at Paul Ricard, which saw Kane eek out the win by less than two seconds over Nicolas Lapierre.
“The job by everybody at Paul Ricard, I think was perfect,” Meyrick said. “We extracted the absolute maximum out of what we had. I think also to get that result at the end of a three-hour race, to be 1.7 seconds apart was really, really good.
“That’s testament to Blancpain and their Balance of Performance to get things right. It’s been a very good start.”
Meyrick, who is undertaking a dual-season program in BES and the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship this year, has been impressed by their early season pace, although it hasn’t come at a complete surprise, knowing the depth of talent within the Malcolm Wilson-led squad.
“We knew the strength of the car and knew that M-Sport would bring a lot to the table in terms of experience,” he said. “But as a race team, they’re very, very new but they’ve adapted incredibly quickly to the circuit racing environment and have done an incredible job.
“But when you look at the strength of Mercedes or Aston or any of the manufacturers, GT3 has been their bread and butter for the last few years. So to come in with a brand new package has been a pleasant surprise.”
While Spa marks the penultimate round of the BES season, double points will be up for grabs. Half-points will be awarded at the six and 12-hour marks in addition to full points at the end of the race.
Despite Meyrick, Smith and Kane holding a seven-point lead in the championship, it could evaporate within a blink of an eye this weekend.
“Although there’s two races to go, there’s effectively three points scoring opportunities,” Meyrick said. “So we’re only halfway though the championship. It’s a funny one to get your head around.
“But we can’t think about it. We’ve got to do what we can and certainly be reliable. We know that everybody is going to be coming.
“We’ve got a bullseye on our back now. The car gets enough attention with its sound and looks anyways. We know that if we keep doing what we’re doing then hopefully everything will take care of itself.
“I’ve got excellent teammates and a good team behind us. We’ll just see what happens.”