Pirelli World Challenge team made progress despite late entry.
After joining the Pirelli World Challenge mid-way through the 2014 season Dyson Racing Team Bentley made rapid progress, culminating earlier this month with a race victory in the series final weekend at Miller Motorsport Park.
“Bentley was founded on motor racing,” notes Bentley Motors’ Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush. “W.O. Bentley started racing with his customer cars and built the legend of the Bentley Boys along with the marque’s reputation for speed, reliability and robust construction.”
That legend has continued to grow over the past nine decades and was enhanced this year with Dyson Racing Team Bentley’s record in the Pirelli World Challenge.
Dyson Racing Team Bentley’s pair of Continental GT3 race cars showed good speed from the start, with Butch Leitzinger setting second-fastest race lap during the team’s debut at the Road America race weekend in June. Guy Smith, who drove a second car for the last two race weekends on the schedule started on the pole and also set fastest lap in three of the four races he contested. In addition to Smith’s race win, Leitzinger had a pair of podium finishes.
The team started its race program half-way through the season, starting at Road America in Wisconsin in June. At Sonoma Raceway in California in August, Leitzinger took the first Bentley podium and Guy Smith joined the team in the second car. Smith left the Sonoma weekend with two fastest race laps to his credit and at the following race at Miller Motorsports Park, in addition to his win, he started from pole for both races, and Leitzinger took his second consecutive podium.
Even with a partial season, at year’s end, Smith was tied for first in driver’s fastest race laps and Bentley was second in manufacturer’s fast laps, and third in manufacturer’s poles.
Victory at Miller
The victory at Miller Motorsports Park opened a new chapter in Bentley’s storied history, the marque’s first win in North America, while the team’s consistent speed during it’s exploratory PWC half season presaged a very competitive stance for 2015.
Dyson Racing Team Bentley personnel share their thoughts on the season:
Michael White, Team Manager – “2014 was a great start to the Bentley GT3 program. Despite coming together halfway through the season, from the start we've set fast laps, won pole positions and at the end season won a race.
“Thanks to Bentley Motors and particularly Brian Gush from Bentley Motors Ltd, and James Pillar, Jon DiVaio and Christophe Georges from the company’s North American arm, Bentley Motors, Inc., for their faith in Dyson Racing Team Bentley and our ability to represent such a prestigious brand in the Pirelli World Challenge series. I also congratulate our team, always ready to step up to the plate and put their hearts and souls into everything they do. Bring on 2015!”
Rob Dyson, Team Principal – “The season was a challenge in all good respects for us. It was learning not only a new car and a new configuration of car – GT vs. the prototypes we have raced in the past – plus we had to learn a new series and its protocols. Overall it was a challenge, but one we have met as the cars showed more pace each race culminating with our win at Miller.
“The working relationship we have with Bentley continues to grow stronger, from the top to the bottom and at all levels. The relationship we have with M-Sport, which built the cars and did the initial development, continues to grow stronger. That is probably the most rewarding part of this season - the unity of purpose that we all have behind this impressive racing effort we are all putting together.
“I am impressed with how the team has risen to the challenge of a new car in a new series. The technical interface we have had with the Bentley engineering staff and the M-Sport engineering staff has been terrific and totally cooperative because it is all for one and one for all on both sides worldwide. And that is one of the more rewarding aspects. Overall I am very satisfied with our program this year.”
Guy Smith, Driver of the #88 Bentley Continental GT3 – “The Pirelli World Challenge has been an excellent choice for Dyson Racing Team Bentley to compete. The great thing about GT racing is the performance of the cars is so balanced and the racing is so close. You have so many manufacturers – including Bentley, Audi, Porsche, McLaren, Ferrari, Cadillac and others – and yet all of them are competitive. That’s what makes GT racing so exciting, from both the drivers’ and fans’ points of view. I think it is a great championship and going forward it will only get better.
“The season has been one of steady improvement with the results getting better and better and culminating in a win at season’s end. Having an American program compliments what Bentley is doing in Europe. It provides more experience and more data and it is good to have people looking at things in different ways, different thoughts, and different ideas – it is just more information to pool. Dyson Racing Team Bentley has some good ideas and we certainly take on board in Europe what Butch Leitzinger and engineer Peter Weston and the guys have said about the car. So we all keep on improving and developing the product. It has been a really good situation and a good year.”
Butch Leitzinger, Driver of the #08 Bentley Continental GT3 – “It has been very enjoyable and challenging season. It has been so much fun jumping into the Bentley because the car was so good from the beginning and I was able to get back with all my old Dyson friends and go racing again. We started mid-season, but we were right in the thick of things at our first race at Elkhart Lake and since then we have learned more and more. It has been a great series to be in with really furious action, which is quite fun. The driving level is good and people are tough but fair, so you are able to really joust with them and enjoy the racing. In some ways the sprint format is a purer form of racing as you just go out and drive as hard as you can. I think I have passed more cars in this half season than I did in the prior fifteen years!
“The Bentley has definitely exceeded my expectations. My biggest surprise was how racy the car is and how much you are able to push on the limits of the car and how well it responds. I think a lot of it is down to Guy: he did such a good job on developing the car (in Europe) from day one.”