The FINANCIAL -- Despite showing potentially race-winning pace at the TOTAL 24 Hours of Spa this weekend, the two Continental GT3s of Bentley Team M-Sport were both forced to retire from the endurance marathon. However, the #84 car of Bentley Team HTP successfully completed the race, placing P5 in class.
The opening hours of the race were run in extremely wet conditions, with the #8 car of Maxime Soulet, Maxi Buhk and Andy Soucek starting from P5 and the sister #7 car of Guy Smith, Steven Kane and Andy Meyrick starting P9. The bad luck started early, as the cars were forced to pit under several long safety car periods, only to be held at the end of the pit lane each time – costing minutes and dropping the #7 car down to P32. However, both cars utilised impressive pace, frequently setting the fastest lap times of any car in the field, to climb up the order and back in to the top 20, according to Bentley Motors.
Shortly before 23:00 local time, Andy Meyrick in car #7 made an overtaking move past a slower competitor at Les Combes, only to be forced off the dry line and on to the wet part of the track and then the wet grass, losing control of the car and hitting the barrier. The car was unable to return to the pits under its own power, and had to retire. Andy was taken to the circuit medical centre and then to a local hospital for medical checks, but has been given the all-clear.
The #8 car continued an impressive turn of speed, alternating between P2 and P5 as out-of-sequence pit stops were taken as night fell. As dawn approached at 05:00, and with Maxi Buhk in the car and challenging for P4, a sudden electrical failure left Max stranded on-track. With no way to recover the car, Bentley Team M-Sport were forced to resign to their first ever double-retirement.
Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush, comments:
“We came to Spa hoping to cement our very strong championship positions, and while we fought back from some extremely bad luck with safety car interventions, the cars were frequently the quickest on the track. We had the pace but we just didn’t have the luck. The important facts are that Andy Meyrick is totally fine after his accident, and we know we can be competitive here again. The whole team is bitterly disappointed with the result, but we’ll try again next year with renewed energy. As always, we’ll focus on finding out what went wrong, learn from it and get ready for the next event.”
The next race for Bentley Team M-Sport is the final round of the 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series, the three-hour race at the Nurburgring over the weekend of 19th-20th September.
Guy Smith, car #7: “It wasn’t our day today. My stint was in very difficult conditions – it was incredibly wet at the start and I struggled for traction, which cost me a few places. The car continually got better as the laps went by, but through pitting under the safety cars we lost huge amounts of time. That put us back well out of the top 20, but Steven gained some time back and Andy was doing the same. While it’s a shame not to score good points here, we’re all just glad that Andy is OK after what was a significant impact.”
Steven Kane, car #7: “Whenever you have the pace but not the result to show for it, it’s a real disappointment. We came here knowing we had a good car for Spa, and hungry to progress our championship challenges further – but we were undone by the weather and the safety cars. That put us well back, and in trying to charge forward through the pack, Andy had to move off the dry line and ended up having his accident. Andy’s fine though, and we’ll repair the car and head to the final round of the championship with the aim of finishing on a high.”
Andy Meyrick, car #7: “It’s a real shame we couldn’t put on a stronger show today. My stint was going quite well – I was on the pace of the leaders and making my way up the order. Overtaking another car, I was forced to move on to the wet line under braking, so I couldn’t stop the car and ended up in the barrier. I’m fine and we’ll be ready to race again at the Nürburgring in September.”
Maxime Soulet, car #8: “The frustrating thing is that we definitely had the pace to be on the podium this weekend. The car was fantastic to drive, and our pace was so strong. We don’t know exactly what’s failed on the car, but it’ll be our first priority to find out to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We’ll be back next year – this is my home race and I want to win it!”
Andy Soucek, car #8: “Sometimes it doesn’t matter how fast your car is or how well you drive, you’re just not destined to win. It looked like we had the right combination today – great pace, super-quick stops from the pit crew, and we stayed out of trouble. All we needed was those vital 24 hours of luck that we didn’t get. I’m hugely disappointed but we can take some comfort in the fact that we had the pace of the leaders.”
Maxi Buhk, car #8: “I was actually really enjoying the race. I love driving here, it’s my favourite race of the season and we were doing really well. We’d been in the top five for several hours and we felt confident that we could maintain our pace to the end. Coming out of Eau Rouge I lost all electrical power and I couldn’t restart the car. It’s the first time we’ve ever had a failure like this and we’ll work out what went wrong.”