Despite the best efforts of Bentley Motorsport Academy drivers Frank Bird, Nicolai Kjærgaard, and Euan McKay, a brake issue in the second hour of the race put paid to the team’s chances after it had been running as high as third place in the Silver Cup.
Starting sixth in class, Frank took the opening stint on his GT debut, but his time behind the wheel was beset by three Full Course Yellow / Safety Car periods. He did well to avoid drama, including when two cars made contact in front of him on the second re-start, handing over to Nicolai just before the end of the first hour.
The Dane, also taking part in his first GT3 race, instantly showed why he earned a spot in the team for the 2020 season, shooting past a class rival to claim third place on his first racing lap. Running in the top 20 overall and closing in on the Silver Cup leaders, he had to serve a penalty handed to the team for speeding under FCY, though came out of the pits ahead of the eventual class winner.
The bad luck was further compounded however, when he lost brakes at the fastest point of the circuit, though he managed to bring the car back to the pits. That led to a lengthy stop which ruled out of any chance of a podium finish, however, the team battled hard to fix the problem and get the car back in the race, with Euan taking the final stint to finish ninth in class.
The next round of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup is set to take place at the Nürburgring in Germany over the weekend of September 4-6, where the Bentley Motorsport Academy drivers will be back on track.
“I really enjoyed my first rolling start. I was right in at the deep end and it was absolute mayhem, so it was pretty difficult to keep out of trouble, but I managed to and kept chipping away. The Safety Cars made it hard to catch the guys in front. Drivers kept speeding up and slowing down and one ran in the back of another in front of me, so even though it was behind the Safety Car you still had to be right on it and alert.
“We had good pace in the end. Free practice was tough as we struggled a lot with the setup, so we started on the back foot, but the team worked really hard and got the car sorted for the race so hopefully that puts us in a good window for the Nürburgring. It was unfortunate what happened with the brakes, but that’s racing.”
“After the restart we were behind some Pro cars. I saw the guy in front make a move and saw the chance to follow through, so I went for it. After that I settled in behind the Pro cars as I was hoping they would get past the Silver class car, which was a little bit ahead, and then have a go myself. I preserved my tyres and things were going quite well as we didn’t have any challenge from behind.
“By the time the Pro cars made it past our rival, we got the drive-through penalty. After we came out, we were ahead of the Barwell car which won the class, so we were in a decent position. He came out right behind, but I opened a gap while I was being as consistent with my lap times as I could.
“I could feel the brakes start to fade and it got worse and worse and then I had a complete failure into turn one. Luckily there’s lots of run off so I didn’t hit anything but you’re going quite quick down there.
“Where we ended pace-wise is where we expected to be, being able to challenge and follow some of the Pro cars. What we learned is that we are good at working hard and improving through the weekend which is a strength and we just need to hit the ground running and avoid mistakes in the race. The teamwork was really strong, and we turned things around which is a real positive.”
“It was a mega effort from the team to turn the car around in the time they did and get me in to the race, so from a personal point of view I am grateful they were able to get me out there. We definitely gained valuable information and it was good practice for me to have a race run on full fuel and understand how the car reacts. The brakes weren’t quite there for my stint, but my pace was still quite good even with maybe an extra 50L of fuel to those around me. It was an incredible effort by the team.
“The team were relentless all weekend trying to get us up the grid and from where we were from pre-qualifying to the race was a massive turnaround. That is such a positive and a real building block for us to take for the rest of the season. Where we were in the race was brilliant – fighting with Pro cars and moving up the order.
“We had the pace for a Silver Cup win, so I think we are buoyed by what we showed today. The headline result might not be great but there are so many positives to take forward and I am really happy with the whole team as we head to Germany in September.”
Source. Torque/Photo. Drew Gibson/Bentley Motorsport