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Incredible Mileage and Victory for the Bentley Boys

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Hopes, dreams and ambitions; they all became glorious reality in France on the 26th June as the Bentley Boys brought home a simply perfect race victory. Then, a little over a month later, the team was second overall in the most hotly contested GT3 race on the planet, the truly grueling 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium. Bentley Team M-Sport drivers now lead the Blancpain Endurance Series Cup!

Victory at the 1,000km Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France came after six hours of driving and teamwork brilliance from start to finish. The car, driven by Maxime Soulet, Andy Soucek and Vince Abril climbed steadily through the pack from its eighth qualified position to a firm grip on the lead, and rocketing on to a win. 

“It’s always great to take a race win but when you do it so cleanly, it makes it all the more rewarding,” Brian Gush, Bentley M-Sport Director.

Everything about the race strategy went to plan, from pit stops to lap-time consistency. Brian Gush, Bentley M-Sport Director, achieved the perfection he seeks. “It’s always great to take a race win but when you do it so cleanly, it makes it all the more rewarding,” he said.

For Vince Abril, the victory was especially sweet. “It’s my first endurance race win and it’s at my home track,” he said afterwards. With the 35 points accumulated, the team were now leading the pack.

At Spa-Francorchamps, there was an historic moment even before the competition began, for this was the 500th race for the Bentley Continental GT3. Many thousands of the super-luxury coupés have left Bentley’s Crewe factory with Naim audio equipment turning their leather-lined cockpits into mobile concert halls. The GT3 track machine, though, must do without similar equipment – the in-car environment is a place of focus on high-performance driving in isolation.

It was an incredibly hard-fought, day-into-night-into-day battle. The Soulet/Soucek/Abril car came in second overall, and did so mere seconds behind the winner. The feat was astounding. As Brian Gush points out: “These races are no longer traditional endurance events – they’re sprints that last 24 hours…we have shown the pace and reliability of the Continental GT3 once again.”

As the car sped past the six, 12- and 24-hout markers, valuable points were amassed. “Towards the end I had nothing left to give and my tyres were losing grip, so I decided not to take any risks and settle for second,” said Maxime. “It really was the toughest race we've ever done.” The car covered 546 laps totalling more than 3,800km; that’s the equivalent of the distance many road-going Continental GTs typically cover in six months, in a single 24-hour period.

Andy Soucek found the Spa result especially satisfying: “What we have achieved today feels like a win. Last year I was in tears because we missed the podium, and this year we fought so hard for it, and Max’s final stint was incredible. Such a close finish shows how tight this race is.”

The result extended the team’s lead in the Blancpain GT Series, and put Vince Abril in prime position to take the Series’ Driver’s Championship. But the elation of a podium finish is already fading as the focus switches to the final round in Barcelona at the season’s end. We are optimistic that the Bentley Boys will do us proud in this last most important race.

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