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Intercontinental GT Challenge

M-Sport Could Still Contest Races in 2020

Bentley/M-Sport partnership “remains” after IGTC entry withdrawal; potential for other race outings…

Photo: Kevin Pecks/SRO

Bentley’s head of motorsport says that M-Sport could still compete in GT3 races this year despite its withdrawal from the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli.

Bentley announced on Friday that it had pulled its factory M-Sport squad from the remainder of the 2020 IGTC season, to prioritize its eight-team customer racing program with the Bentley Continental GT3.

The decision was primarily driven by the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, based on financial and logistical factors.

However, Bentley motorsport boss Paul Williams told Sportscar365 that the manufacturer is looking at how M-Sport, which developed the Continental GT3, could get involved in races this year after the termination of its primary race program.

One option that was mentioned in the Friday announcement is the possibility for M-Sport to contest the Total 24 Hours of Spa IGTC round in October, as an independent outfit.

While the works Bentley entry has withdrawn from the season, this doesn’t preclude private entries from taking part in certain IGTC events.

“This is an idea,” explained Williams. “We’ve paid the [Spa] entry fee already, so there are certain costs of going to Spa which are covered already and are there.

“It’s an idea that maybe this could happen in some form. We have put together the framework of an idea, but it’s not mature enough to know whether it can work.

“We’ve still got the travel constraints that we’re not certain about. At the moment, the main message there is that this is not closing doors and turning around.

“We are refocusing. Money has to be saved in the process, but M-Sport have their own resources as well and they love to go racing as much as we do.

“Some of the costs there are already committed, so there are possibilities. But we’re not able to confirm that yet.”

There also appears to be an option to get the UK-based M-Sport squad involved with American Bentley customer K-PAX Racing’s two-car Continental GT3 program in Europe.

When asked if M-Sport could be put on standby for GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, in the event of K-PAX experiencing transatlantic travel issues, Williams said this is “not an impossibility”.

Last week K-PAX Racing team manager Darren Law said his team still plans to run the whole GTWC Europe Endurance Cup campaign, which starts at Imola on July 26.

“There are options to get them [M-Sport] involved in some form of racing,” said Williams.

“M-Sport is our technical partner and is tightly linked to all the other teams as well. They support us in helping build the cars, and between my team and M-Sport we do all the technical support for the customers.

“K-PAX is also very tightly linked with M-Sport, so depending on what the situation is, that type of tie-up is not an impossibility.”

However, Williams stressed that even now it’s difficult to foresee how the programs will turn out this year because of the uncertainties caused by the global health crisis.

“It could work, but it’s so difficult to know yet, even at this quite late stage, exactly what travel is possible and what it means to travel,” said Williams.

“We’re only just starting to see the drafts of what will have to happen on a race weekend, so everyone is trying to understand exactly what that means for their program and what the racing delivers in those conditions.”

Factory Team IGTC Presence “Remains to be Seen”

Williams admitted that it’s too early to say if Bentley will return with a full factory team in IGTC next year, although he expressed a hope that the program can bounce back.

Bentley has been a full-season, points-paying manufacturer since 2018 but the M-Sport team has been competing in IGTC events since the inaugural season in 2016.

“Our partnership with M-Sport remains and we haven’t stopped that; we’ve just refocused it onto the customer side at the moment,” said Williams.

“I would dearly love for us to continue to have a works-type entry. I think it’s a good thing to have that pinnacle of your program as an aspiration for the customers and young drivers.

“But it’s not as important to us as customer racing, so if we have to prioritize where we put our money, it has to be the customers first.

“It’s a good part of any program and I would like to retain it if we can. But it’s just not the highest priority when you really are in tight times.

“We’re still not sure today where this financial crisis takes us. It remains to be seen.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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