Team Parker Racing is set to resume action in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup as it tackles the daunting 24 Hours of Spa over a late autumnal weekend of October 22-25.
Despite bad luck at the opening two rounds of the season, with brake failure at Imola and unnecessary damage from a rival behind the Safety Car at the Nürburgring, Bentley Motorsport Academy members Frank Bird, Nicolai Kjærgaard, and Euan McKay remain upbeat about their chances at the marquee event after the official two-day test at the circuit in September.
The conditions during the test were similar to those expected for the race, with the car finishing 12th quickest overall in the wet and first in the Silver Cup during one of the dry sessions. All three Academy drivers also got time behind the wheel at night, boosting their knowledge and experience, though a tyre blowout early on the second morning curtailed running.
Usually a summer classic with long daylight hours, the amended schedule for 2020 means the 24 Hours of Spa will take place under challenging conditions with the sun setting just three hours into the contest and rising on Sunday morning with only six hours left to run, also factoring in the end of daylight savings which will happen during the night.
If 15 hours of darkness wasn’t enough for competitors to contend with, the weather is also expected to be a factor, with temperatures of around 10C and a 60% chance of rain based on previous years.
Tackling the Silver Cup class in their Bentley Continental GT3, the trio will have a busy opening day of the event on Thursday, October 22, with a 90-minute free practice session followed by 60-minutes of pre-qualifying. Qualifying will be split into 15-minute segments in the evening, with 90-minutes of night practice closing out the day.
Friday will be a chance to largely reset and rest up with just a 30-minute warm up and super pole, ahead of the main event itself, which gets underway at 15:30 CEST / 14:30 BST on Saturday, October 24. Links to live and free coverage will be shared on the team’s social media channels across the four days, with updates and information also posted for fans to keep up with all the action.
“The first day of the Spa test started wet so we did some good work on that before the track dried up in the afternoon. It was good of the organisers to put on night running to give us the experience of that before the race and it was absolutely mental! You can’t really see a thing going into the woods, unless you’re following someone, or someone is following you, but I really enjoyed it. Day two finished early for us because a tyre blew out at 09:30 which cut things short, sadly.
“Spa should suit the car more than the Nürburgring did so we should be in a good spot. The start of the season hasn’t been great, but we take each race as it comes. Each weekend we are getting more experience and more confidence, so hopefully it should be a good week.”
“The test was a positive experience for me, so heading into the week we will aim to find a better wet set up and combine it with our pace in the dry because we’re expecting both conditions for the race. I thought you would be able to see more in the dark, especially when there are no cars around you, but I got a grasp of it pretty quickly.
“It is all experience so when we get used to it, we’ll worry about it less. Small things like that will be a big challenge, especially when it’s so late in the year. I also found it tough when it was raining when it was dark because you can’t see much. We’ll have a challenge on our hands if it’s wet for the majority of the race, but our dry pace was very strong, especially Frank’s on new tyres.”
“The test was my first time at the circuit in a Bentley and the first day was really good, especially in the dry and we managed to get a bit of set up work done in the wet as we have a bit of time to find there. Having driven in the dark previously at both Spa and Paul Ricard I was used to that, but ultimately the track stays the same; you just can’t see as much, so it is just something to get used to but it adds a different element to the racing.
“From my perspective when the car is coming down the pit lane and it is pitch black the adrenaline really gets going, so I am excited and raring to go!”
Source. Torque/Photo. Bentley