Bentley Motorsport has finished in third place in the opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, Bathurst 12 Hours, in a race that was packed with dramatic action from the outset. The #17 Continental GT3 piloted by the all-British trio of Guy Smith, Steven Kane and Oliver Jarvis rose from 22nd on the grid to finish on the podium in Bentley’s first race of 2017.
Australia’s largest and highest-profile endurance race began at 05.45 on Sunday morning, and it was the #8 Continental GT3 piloted by Maxime Soulet (BE) that was gaining most attention as it climbed from fifth to third on the opening two laps.
However, as the sun began to rise over New South Wales and the more than 50 cars made their way over the tight and twisty Mount Panorama track, a punctured tyre preceded a brush with Mount Panorama’s unforgiving concrete walls and forced the #8 to pit.
Meanwhile, the #17 Continental GT3 was climbing through the pack, picking off competitors and taking advantage of numerous safety car interventions. After two hours, Guy Smith (GB) had moved the car inside the top ten and, by the time he handed the car to Steven Kane forty-minutes later, the #17 car was sitting in second place.
Steven, Olly and Guy maintained their pace for the remainder of the race and, after 12-hours of racing that saw seven different GT3s lead, including the #17 Bentley, the chequered flag fell with Steven bringing the car home in third place.
The #8 Continental GT3, that had dropped to the back of the pack after the early stop, earned a hard-fought comeback and Soulet, Andy Soucek (ES) and Vince Abril (MO) finished in twelfth place.
“Both teams had to overcome adversity this weekend, and both did with grit and determination,” commented Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush. “The car #17 team did a fantastic job to get on the podium and start our 2017 season on the right foot. We now look forward to the start of the European season and hopefully earning more silverware.”
Bentley Motorsport’s works team races next at the opening round of the Blancpain GT Series, at Misano in Italy in April.
Oliver Jarvis, car #17: “It’s great to get a podium on my debut with Bentley and to do it on a track that is notoriously challenging and unforgiving makes it even more rewarding. We have started the season with a podium and that’s the way we intend to continue.”
Andy Soucek, car #8: “Today didn’t go to plan but we showed good pace and we are in a very strong place as a team. We’ll put the disappointment of this race behind us and focus on the Blancpain GT Series.”