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Top Gear's Chris Harris is racing a Bentley GT3 car
New TGTV star is racing at Monza this weekend. Read his report from qualification here
Blancpain GT Endurance Series, Round 1, Monza
Car 30: Bentley Continental GT3
Drivers: Chris Cooper, Chris Harris, Derek Pierce
There are three classes in Blancpain GT. Pro: full professional drivers. Pro-Am: two pro drivers, one amateur. Am: three amateur drivers.
The qualifying format is so simple you wonder why F1 doesn’t copy it. Each driver must set a timed lap. There are three 15-minute sessions, with 7 minutes between them to change tyres and drivers.
The track was damp but drying quickly during the first qualifying session. Chris Cooper went out and climbed up the board, setting a 1min 51.323sec, which left us in first position in class (P1) and feeling confident about the full-dry pace.
I went next and the car immediately felt superb. The track was effectively dry and despite the place being so busy, I managed to clear a few slower cars, get an Audi R8 in my sights - always the best way to eke out some time - and the tyres came good on lap 5. That was a 1.48.541, P1 in class and P12 overall. This left me feeling more than a little happy. In fact I’m still grinning now typing this.
Last out was Derek Pierce who chipped a further tenth off my time as the fuel load came down, but as predicted, every team waited to send their quick man out last and the times began to fall into the mid 1.47s. But we’re in prime position now for the race: P29 overall, P2 in the Am class (pipped by a Ferrari 488 by two tenths) and with three drivers very evenly matched in terms of pace.
And what was it like lapping Monza with a dozen other aggressively driven GT3 cars? Fantastic. The Pro drivers take no prisoners, but you can run with them and the Bentley is so huge that you never feel intimidated. The car was fantastic: great chassis balance, good traction and only a little down on others on the straights.
The race is at 2pm UK time, and you can watch the live stream here.