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SMITH: Silverstone Debrief

Bentley’s Guy Smith files his Sportscar365 column following Silverstone…

Photo: Bentley

Photo: Bentley

Racing on home soil is always special and it’s even better when it’s the scene of your first win in the Blancpain GT series.

Round two of the 2015 championship saw us return to Silverstone – the circuit where we took victory 12 months ago, scoring Bentley’s first win on British soil in 84 year. It was an exciting challenge and one that we were very much up for.

While the car has been working well, having scored a podium finish at the season opener at Monza, we knew that the competition would be strong at Silverstone and a repeat victory would difficult – but not impossible – but we would need everything to go our way.

Typically the British weather played its part in the weekend with a pretty mixed bag in qualifying, with a sprinkle of rain falling in each of the three 15 minute qualifying sessions.

Steven ran in Q1 and did an excellent job to grab P3 before the rain fell, and in Q2 Andy ran in much wetter conditions where nobody was able to improve.

I was in for Q3 which looked to be a little drier, so I was able to get a decent first lap in early which put me P1.

I then caught traffic on my second lap and unfortunately we didn’t have enough fuel onboard to have a shot at another timed lap so we had to pit – we’d deliberately short-fueled the car to be as quick as possible in Q1 as the forecast predicated more rain later in the sessions.

As the track got quicker, we dropped down to P9, but it still gave us a decent start position ahead of the packed mid-field.

As is now custom, I was in to start the No. 7 Continental GT3 and as I sat on the grid it was great to see the support of all the British fans (including my family) and also so many members of the Bentley workforce who had made the visit down from the factory in Crewe to support us.

Heading down into Turn One at the start, I made a good jump on the cars ahead of me and managed to squeeze between the Nissan and Audi in front of me and move up to P6.

As the race settled down the car was running well, the Bentley V8 engine was using fuel economically and we were able to stretch the fuel mileage, meaning I was one of the last cars to pit, coming in P4 to hand over to Andy Meyrick.

Unfortunately during the pit stop we had a wheel nut that failed to engage and broke, and we lost about a minute, which took us out of contention for the win or even a podium.

At this point it was all about damage limitation and to try and recover and score as many points as possible.

Andy rejoined P24 and began to work his way back through the field, picking cars off one by one before pitting from P16 and handing over to Steven who drove a great stint to get us up into the top ten in P9 by the finish.

I think the win may have been difficult with the cars able to take advantage of the early full course yellow having a serious advantage, but I think we could have raced for P2 had we not had the issue in the pits.

It’s a shame we couldn’t challenge, but I think the team responded well and did a great job as ever.

We will now get ready for Paul Ricard, another circuit that we won at last year, so our hopes are high. Paul Ricard is a 1000 km race this year so there are extra points available – we’ll see if we can make up for this weekend there.

The 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series is already proving to be a fantastic championship, and with over 60 cars racing there’s never a dull moment!

I’m really enjoying the challenge and looking forward to the rest of the season.

Guy Smith (@TheGuySmith) is the 2003 winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and former American Le Mans Series champion, driving for the factory M-Sport Bentley squad in the Blancpain Endurance Series.

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