The Green Hell. What does a track have to do to earn a nickname like that?
Spanning 20.8 kms and having 73 turns, Germany’s Nurburgring is considered one of the world’s premier tracks. Manufacturers from around the world bring their cars to it to test their mettle. A car can hardly consider itself sporty if it hasn’t been pushed to limits here.
This past weekend the Nürburgring was the place for the world’s toughest endurance challenge: The Nürburgring 24 Hours. If street cars earn their cred by besting the ‘Ring, then an endurance racing car can’t be satisfied with just lap times. It needs to do them consistently for 24 hours! The N24 is the race no serious endurance racer can miss.
The challenges of the track’s length become obvious very early on. Because of the amount of ground it covers, it can be pouring rain on one side and bright and sunny on the other, making tire choices hard. And God help you if you have an off. Miss a turn here and you may be looking at a thirty minute trailer ride back to the pits.
Something wild always happens at this place and 2016 didn’t disappoint. On lap 3, the skies opened up and massive amounts of rain and hail fell from above. There was so much marble size hail on the track that the competitors, whose cars were mounted with racing slicks, were unable to get their cars up the hill. Stranded there on the track, a comical scene unfolded as drivers began opening their doors to cool themselves from the heat inside while the ice fell outside. Drivers who exited their cars completely fared no better as their smooth-bottomed driving shoes made it difficult to even walk on the track’s surface. The race would be halted for nearly three hours before competition resumed.
Bentley was here last year for the first time with three Continental GT3’s. Two were Works (factory) entries and one was a customer car. The customer car made it through but both Works cars were caught in on track incidences that damaged the cars and ruined the chances for a podium finish
Bentley Motorsport was back this year with two cars. The cars were customer cars operated be Bentley Team Abt. They were driven by their normal
Drivers from the ADAC series but joined by factory shoes, Guy Smith and Steven Kane.
The plan was simple: be fast and avoid mistakes. With over 150 entries, avoiding mistakes of others can be impossible. Add in the darkness of a dense German forest and the difficulty of fog and rain at 170 mph and you can imagine how hard it is.
The Bentleys were in the top class against competitive German brands Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. Bentley stuck with their plan and were consistent with their lap times. Luck was on their side as nobody ran into them and they managed to keep mistakes to a minimum.
Sporting a bright yellow and black livery for sponsor Deutsch Post, the #38 was driven by Smith, Fabien Hamprecht, Christian Menzel and Chris Brück. The quartet completed 131 laps of the Nürburgring Nordschleife to cross the line ahead of more than 150 cars.
They finished seventh overall and in class, giving Bentley their best finish yet at the event. It also put Bentley with the best finish of their VW Group sister companies.
The #37 Continental GT wore Bentley’s green and white Union Jack livery. Driven by Steven Kane (GB), Marco Holzer (DE), Christer Jöns (DE) and Chris Brück (DE), the car and its crew showed strength and perseverance. An early setback left them in 106th place. They would climb back the final 12 hours to finish 17th.
“Success at the Nürburgring 24 hours requires at least a three-year plan and we’re pleased that at the end of year two we’re ahead of our target,” said Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush.
“We set out to get a top ten finish, yet we were close to getting inside the top five. It’s an extremely tough race and we’re proud to have both cars cross the line. We’ve learnt a great deal and we’ll be back next year with more data and more experience.”
A testament to just how good the car and the team were is the fact that those two cars and Bentley Team Abt are in action this weekend in the ADAC GT Masters.
The next race for the Bentley Motorsport works team will be in the Blancpain GT Series at Paul Ricard on Saturday 25th June.