Bentley Team M-Sport will compete in the entire ten-round Blancpain GT Series this season, adding the Blancpain Sprint Cup to its schedule, Sportscar365 has learned.
The factory program enters its third year in 2016 and will see the Bentley Continental GT3s also compete in the five-round Sprint Cup, giving the Crewe-based manufacturer a shot at the overall Blancpain GT Series title.
The expanded effort effectively fills the void left by HTP Motorsport, as the German team decided to return to Mercedes after claiming the Blancpain Sprint Series Drivers’ Title in its first and as it turned out only season with the Continental GT3.
Meanwhile, Team Parker Racing (Blancpain Endurance) and ABT (ADAC GT & Nürburgring 24) have joined the Bentley family during the off-season.
“We’ve got the cars and the team and we felt that there would be kit on the ground to do it,” Bentley Motorsport Director Brian Gush told Sportscar365 earlier this month at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
“This [allowed us] for Abt to focus on VLN and Nürburgring 24 and freed up M-Sport from that, giving us the opportunity to use the kit we had. Otherwise the schedule became quite frenetic.”
The reduction from seven to five race weekends played a factor in the team’s decision, as well as the Stephane Ratel’s growing focus on the overall Blancpain title.
“That also helped us put it all in,” Gush said. “It’s an amazing calendar now. When you look at it, there are very few clashes.”
Furthermore, SRO introduced a new rule for 2016 requiring at least one GT3 car from each manufacturer to compete in the Pro Cup for the entire season, and at least two in the series overall, in order to be eligible for the Total 24 Hours of Spa in the top class.
Drivers have yet to be announced for M-Sport’s Blancpain Sprint effort but is expected to comprise of four of team’s drivers from its Endurance campaign.
John Dagys contributed to this report