We hoped for a cracker, and in the end that's what we got. Hands up anyone who got a chance to catch the opening
salvo of the 2014 Blancpain endurance series?
For those of you that
did, you’ll agree that it was a great race. Well, for everyone else on the grid
it was, because from the moment the leading McLaren 12C GT3 of Alvaro Parente
(who put it on pole last night), Gregoire Demoustier and Alexandre Premat – a
man who’s competed at Le Mans in an LMP1 Audi – got away, it was really a case
of how far ahead that Macca could go.
From lights out, and watching from the famous Ascari chicane, you could see the gap between the 12C and the next placed car, the Bentley Continental GT3, grow hugely. Full credit, and, we’re told, only the second time that a McLaren has won in the Blancpain series.
It was followed home by the Sainteloc Audi R8, while third place was the second ART McLaren that held off the advancing R8 of Audi Club Team WRT. A quality battle.
But, the Bentley was arguably one of the big stories of the day. Marking the brand’s proper return to competitive racing since 2003, the No.7 car stormed up to second position from fourth on the grid from the start (after that qualifying crash late last night) and valiantly held off the challenge of the advancing Prancing Horses behind.
It was only a matter of time, sadly, but a final result of 7th and 8th for the team is, all things considered, a solid result. Something Bentley Motorsport boss Brian Gush agreed with. “We got both cars home,” he said, “despite the incident in qualifying, so I’m satisfied with the result. The positives we can take out of today are that we’ve got good solid reliability, the drivers had a good day of getting used to the new car and the team – they hadn’t driven together before – so they did a fantastic job.
“We lost a bit of time in the pit stop with car number 7, but overall just a great result.”
2003 Bentley Le Mans winner Guy Smith was equally upbeat. “Seeing where we were last night (when the team had to practically rebuild the car following Kane’s crash in the dying minutes of qualifying), the car was 100 per cent, you wouldn’t even know it had a crash. Full credit to the team, the car was reliable, we had good pace, and we’ve got something to build on. Don’t forget, we’re still learning. It’s a solid start.”
Somebody else who’s learning is F1 refugee Jerome D’Ambrosio, who – despite having only completed 20 laps prior to today – drove a storming race. “It’s as much time as I’ve spent in the car so far! It was great to be able to test different driving styles and interact in a different way with the car. It had a great balance, too. I was catching up the others at the end and found a good rhythm with the car. I think this championship is fantastic too. I’m very happy to be part of the family.”
Lots of good things to take from the start then, because aside from the noise, the racing is incredibly close. Next stop, Silverstone. Stay tuned...