After racing with McLaren and Aston Martin last season, Andy Soucek has arrived at Bentley, where he’ll compete for the M-Sport factory squad in the Blancpain Endurance Series, trying to give the sister No. 7 car a run for its money.
The former FIA Formula Two champion is a perfect example of a single-seater ace turned GT racer, quickly building a strong reputation, putting him in demand with several manufacturers.
“I was racing with McLaren for two years and then I tried two races with Aston Martin, just to see how the car was, how the team was,” Soucek told Sportscar365.
After some strong performances in one of the ART Grand Prix McLarens in the Endurance races last year, the 29-year-old Spaniard went on to make his mark in the Sprint Series, scoring two second places in the Baku World Challenge for Beechdean AMR.
“[AMR] then offered me a drive and I was very happy to take it because it was a factory drive. The plan was to do a GTE program, but they couldn’t confirm until the beginning of the year.
“I talked to Bentley at the end of last year and they proposed a test, it went great and then I had to make a difficult decision, but still it’s a great position to be in as a driver.”
In the end Soucek went for Bentley, a decision he doesn’t regret.
“Looking at the whole package, Bentley was the best deal possible,” he said. “It’s going to be a real challenge with all the new cars coming out and the extremely good entry in the Pro Cup.
“I want to stay here and do Le Mans, and I’m sure that Bentley will go to La Sarthe at some point, so at the moment, staying here is the best choice.”
The Spaniard will share the No. 8 Continental GT3 with 2013 BES champ Maxi Buhk and Belgian Maxime Soulet.
“Soulet is a relatively unknown talent,” Soucek said. “He has proven to be as good as Buhk and myself; we’re all fast, consistent, experienced. I don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t be up front.”
During the 2014 season, the No. 8 car was plagued by some mechanical troubles and bad luck, not being able to deliver the same results as the British Bentley Boys in the No. 7 entry.
“I think that’s the reason why Bentley changed the whole lineup,” Soucek said. “It’s not that the drivers didn’t do a good job, but maybe Bentley did it just to break with the past and change the whole spirit of the No. 8 car.
“Hopefully we won’t be in that situation this year. Bentley really wants us to challenge car No. 7 and put some pressure on them.
“The main difference is that they (Smith, Kane, Meyrick) are friends, all live in the UK, train together, get on well and have a clear structure within their group.
“We are now getting to that point where we have to work together and it’s going quite well. In particular Soulet and myself, we are the same age, the same type of guy.
“Buhk is a little bit more younger, maybe a bit more impatient, but extremely fast.”
In general, Soucek is very positive about the Continental GT3, despite only having a hand full of testing days under his belt.
“The Continental clearly has more downforce in the fast corners than the Aston Martin and McLaren, but on the other hand it feels a bit more heavier in the slower sections,” he said.
“It’s not because of the weight, but the way the car was designed. It’s huge; we run the same tires rear and front, while the McLaren and Aston had bigger ones at the rear.
“But all in all it’s a very balanced car. The throttle response and braking are excellent so I think endurance is a very good choice for us.
“If I had to choose between these three cars I’d pick the Bentley.”