Bentley was unable to recover from a pre-event Balance of Performance adjustment that put the team on a physical and psychological “back foot” in the Total 24 Hours of Spa, according to motorsports director Brian Gush.
The British manufacturer had one of its toughest 24-hour races to date, with only one of its four factory-run Bentley Continental GT3s making it to the finish in red-flag affected the Belgian endurance classic.
The No. 110 Bentley of Andy Soucek, Lucas Ordonez and Pipo Derani finished six laps down in 29th overall, while the three other M-Sport entries all retired.
Callum MacLeod’s No. 109 Bentley was the race’s first casualty, having pulled to the side of the track due to lack of oil pressure after completing just six laps.
It was followed by a race-ending transmission issue that struck the No. 108 car prior to midnight, while a cracked chassis from a previous accident forced the No. 107 Bentley out of the race with less than two hours to go.
Gush, who was in his final race as Bentley’s motorsport director, claims the the “unfair” BoP change, which saw the car handed with 10 kg of additional weight since its Paul Ricard win, led to the disappointing performance and results.
The BoP change, announced on July 21, saw the Bentley, Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and race-winning Porsche 911 GT3 R all gain 10 kg, with the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo and Mercedes-AMG GT3 getting 10 kg weight breaks.
“The BoP put us on the back foot because we didn’t have the pace in qualifying,” Gush told Sportscar365.
“We were quite far down. Then when you’re in the pack, it’s quite difficult to avoid contact. These things happen, especially in the wet with braking.
“I feel the weight was a bit unfair. We were 20 kg disadvantaged to Audi and Mercedes from Paul Ricard, where we were not blindingly fast, just consistent.
“I felt that wasn’t right to change the BoP.”
Gush said the fact that none of the four cars made it into Super Pole came as a serious mental hit to the Crewe-based manufacturer that likely affected its performance in the race as well.
“There’s a big psychological thing to get into Super Pole,” he said. “If you think about it, we should have been in the Top 20.
“It’s not that there was driver error; we have good drivers.
“The drivers did not have a problem. That’s purely BoP. There were no tactical errors by the team, there were no driver errors in all of that. Why weren’t we in the Top 20?
“As soon as we were out of Super Pole, the team morale and everybody dropped a bit. It was quite difficult to fight back form that.”
Prior to the No. 107 car’s accident with the No. 66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo, Gush said their strategist had projected the car to be in line for a fourth place finish.
Gush Pleased With “Very Professional” Four-Car Effort
Bentley’s outgoing motorsports boss, who retires on Tuesday following a two-decade plus run with the manufacturer, has praised all that were involved with M-Sport’s expanded four-car effort for Spa.
It included assistance from Bentley’s North American-based customer K-PAX Racing, as well as drivers and alum from Team Parker Racing.
“It’s been great,” Gush said. “The team was very professional.
“What we really enjoyed doing was getting our customer teams involved, with Seb [Morris], Callum, Rodrigo [Baptista], Thomas Blam, who is a really good strategist and Seb [Constans] as engineering one car.
“The trust and confidence and skills in our customer teams, we demonstrated that.
“I’m really pleased the way the team gelled. I just would have liked a better result for my last race.”