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Power light ‘on’, fine-tuning begins…

Naim’s brand new Bentley racers were fresh out of the box at their debut GT race at Monza, Italy, and our drivers are building their confidence with them – so a finish for both was spot-on

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You can calculate, you can simulate, you can test and you can practice. But in top-level motor sport, there’s still nothing quite like the fury of the race itself to test a car’s limits.

Bentley’s factory-run and all-new Continental GT3 made its race debut in the opening round of the hyper-competitive Blancpain GT race series at Monza in Italy on Sunday, 22 April. It’s the track-only sister car to the new Continental GT in which the Naim-For-Bentley sound system is a key element of the car’s owner appeal.

What can you expect from a car that feels the heat of competition on the grid for the very first time? Not always a race finish, that’s for sure. And yet both the Naim-backed cars completed the heat and crossed the line.

“It’s a vital part of the development programme that we simply cannot replicate elsewhere and, aside from the usual expected teething issues, the car has performed well.” Brian Gush, director of Motorsport, Bentley

The GT3 carrying race number seven, driven by Jules Gounon, Steven Kane and Guy Smith finished in 18th place overall, while car number eight crewed by Victor Abril, Maxime Soulet and Andy Soucek was ranked in 44th place in the results; nine cars were trailed it home, including Porsches, Nissans, Mclarens and BMWs – models with many races under their belts. They managed 63 and 56 laps respectively. It’s all down to experience, of course; the longer that drivers spend behind the wheel of a car, the more it shrinks around them, and the better they can judge and experience the extreme limits of its capabilities.

The cars proved their potential in qualifying sessions before the race itself, where they showed pace that put them within 0.3sec and 0.5sec of pole position. This shows how extremely competitive this GT series is for cars of contrasting mechanical layouts, including rear-engined, mid-engined and, as for the beautifully balanced Continental GT3 itself, front-engined with rear-wheel drive.

“Here at Monza, we were able to evaluate its potential in race conditions for the very first time,” said team chief Brian Gush, while pondering the development glitches and on-track mishaps that stymied progress and put championship points out of reach on this occasion. “I’m especially pleased with its pace over one lap against a field as competitive as the one assembled for the Blancpain GT Series.” It all bodes well for the next Naim Bentley outing at Silverstone on May 18-20.

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