Both Continental GT3 cars suffer bad luck in the opening hours
Spa - With the first six hours of the Total 24 Hours of Spa complete, the two Continental GT3s of M-Sport Bentley sit in P36 and P44 respectively. With an unusually high number of incidents, 30 of the first 90 laps were spent behind the safety car as the Bentleys began their recovery from a difficult first two hours of the race. This culminated in a red flag being shown at the five-hour mark following a significant incident between two cars near Stavelot.
With car #7 starting P6 and car #8 P39 on the grid, the race got underway on schedule at 16:30 CEST. Guy Smith drove the opening stint in car #7, suffering from a lack of front-end grip as the high track temperatures caused the front tyres to overheat. Despite holding off challenges for several laps, Guy had to relinquish places and was in P9 by the time he pitted on lap 25. He handed the car to Andy Meyrick, who sat P16 after all pit stops before starting to move up the field as tyre pressure adjustments improved the car’s handling.
However, his progress was halted during a safety car period at lap 45, when he made an unscheduled pit stop with a brake issue. The problem was instantly found to be a damaged front right brake line, caused by a piece of debris from one of the on-track incidents, lodged inside the wheel. Even though the remedial work was conducted under safety car conditions, the stop still cost car #7 three laps.
Since then, car #7 has run well, with the cooling track suiting the car more. Andy handed over to Steven Kane during the unscheduled stop, with Steven driving a double stint before handing over to Guy Smith on lap 88.
Car #8 suffered misfortune early in the race, with a small collision on the second lap damaging the front left track-rod. A 15-minute pit stop to fit a replacement cost six laps, with Antoine Leclerc rejoining the race in last place on lap 7. However, since then, car #8 has avoided all of the on-track incidents and steadily climbed to sit P36 at the six-hour mark once the race resumed after the red flag. All three drivers have completed stints in the car, which now continues to run well.
Steven Kane, Car #7: “It really has been a crazy race so far. We were so unlucky to have a piece of debris damage our brake line, but the M-Sport Bentley mechanics got the car fixed so quickly that we only lost three laps. Since then the car’s gradually improved and we can drive it harder, and our lap times are looking good. Everyone’s having difficulty with the tyres so we’re all constantly learning. There’s still a long way to go.”
Jérôme D’Ambrosio, Car #8: “Qualifying was very difficult for us, and we knew that P39 on the grid would make our start tricky. That proved to be the case, and the contact that Antoine suffered on lap two bent one of our track rods, which cost us five laps to fix. Since then it’s just been a case of trying to keep heat in the tyres during the long safety car periods, and then making up ground when we can.”
Brian Gush, Bentley’s Director of Motorsport: “We certainly have a mountain to climb. So far we’ve had more trouble in this race than we have had all season long, but the cars are looking stronger now and hopefully we can make some good progress in the cooler temperatures. The whole team here is relieved to hear that the drivers in the early incidents are OK, but our thoughts are with Marcus Mahy of the Kessel Racing team who has been airlifted to hospital.”