The World Challenge is going to insane this year. Bentley will be facing off against many of the best sports cars in the world. Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari, Nissan, etc, etc. Dyson Racing, Bentley’s North American partner, is geared up for its first full season of competing in the Pirelli WC.
Last year, the team was pulled together mid-season and only competed in half of those sprint style races. But even with Dyson unfamiliarity with the Continental GT3, Bentley managed several front row starts, a race win, and two other podium finishes. Veteran driver Buch Leitzinger will be returning to Dyson Racing in the #20 Bentley Continental GT3, while Chris Dyson, a two-time American Le Mans driver champion, will be competing full time in the #16 Continental GT3.
Together, Rob Dyson noted, the pair represents a formidable driver line-up. Chris Dyson won IMSA American Le Mans Series driver titles in 2003 and 2011, while finishing second in the series in 2005 and 2012. In his two-decade career with Dyson Racing, Leitzinger has won three championships, been runner-up four times and third twice. Among Leitzinger’s 34 victories for the team are two in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Leitzinger also finished second overall in the Bentley EXP-8 in the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Our goal last season was to assess the car, the series and the competition,” said Rob Dyson, the team’s founder and CEO. “It was clear from our first race weekend at Elkhart Lake, where Butch Leitzinger set the second-fastest lap in each race, that the car was good, the competition was keen, the races were hard-fought, and the series was very well run.” Dyson noted that a race win in the season’s final weekend at Miller Motorsports Park confirmed the car’s capabilities. “But we knew our competitors wouldn’t be standing still over the winter and we would need to focus our efforts on realizing more of the Continental GT3’s full potential.”
Winter practice has gone well for the team. Chris Dyson found the Continental GT3 “impressive” during his first sessions with the car during test sessions in Sebring, FL. “I was very pleased with how much downforce the Bentley makes, particularly in high-speed corners,” said Dyson, comparing the production-based GT3 to the sports-prototypes in which he won his two ALMS titles. The team worked closely with Bentley Motorsport and technical partner M-Sport, who together develop and construct the Continental GT3 race cars, to better develop the car for the standing starts that are a unique feature of the Pirelli World Challenge.
The Bentley’s biggest challenge last year was the Pirelli World Challenge’s unique standing race starts. They way the Bentleys were set up caused them to lose many a front row position to the quick all wheel drive Audi’s. “This is the only series that the Continental GT3 competes in where the race starts with all the cars standing still on the grid. So in 2014, it’s not surprising our competitors’ had more thoroughly developed launch-control software,” Dyson said. “We were strong in qualifying, but we were getting out-raced to the first corner and with a race that lasts just 40 to 50 minutes and often on tracks where it’s tough to pass, that’s a not insignificant handicap.”
Because of the short duration of the races and the importance of the standing start, it is good for Bentley Motorsport fans to hear Chris Dyson say that he was confident he and Leitzinger would now be better able to match their competitors on the race starts. That’s an assessment that Leitzinger agrees with, expressing his eagerness for the new season to begin.
“Right from our first race last year it was so much fun,” Leitzinger said, in large part because “the Bentley was so good from the beginning. And it’s a really fun series to be in with lots of action. The driving level is good and people are tough and fair so you are able to really joust with people and enjoy the racing.”
The 2015 Pirelli World Challenge season begins at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX, March 6-8.