The weather is warming up in the northern hemisphere and we’re finally getting back to racing. Specifically, GT racing, this author’s favorite sort. We’ve already seen the Continental GT3 in action at the annual endrance race at Bathurst (see Bentley Bumped From Podium At Bathurst), but now we get to see how Bentley and its partners were able to prepare in the offseason for sprint racing.
Last season was far from a disappointment. After signing Dyson Racing, Bentley entered the Pirelli World Challenge in the middle of the schedule. Despite this and the fact that the Continental GT3 hadn’t seen much action in sprint racing yet, the Bentley’s ended up with several front row starts, a race win, and two other podium finishes.
A big challenge for the team was the format of the Pirelli World Challenge. The races are timed at only one hour, meaning the races are maybe 30 or 40 laps depending on the racetrack. Add in a couple yellow flags for the aggressive driving required for the short race and you really need to be at the start of the pack to have a shot at the podium. The wrinkle in the World Challenge is that they utilize a standing start. The Bentleys weren’t set up right for the launch and struggled to maintain their qualifying positions into the first turn.
After testing all winter, the cars are ready for the this season. Dyson CEO Rob Dyson, said that they had 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 including a re-write of the launch control software to help the cars get out of the gate quicker.
The #20 Bentley Continental GT3 driven by Butch started in 13th and had a perfect launch, holding around 15th position in the first corner. Chris Dyson in car #16 qualified 18th. By 15 minutes in, Butch had pulled in the pits and dropped to #41th overall. Meanwhile, Chris Dyson had moved up to 17th. Unfortunately, that was as high as the Continental GT3’s would rank. The cars were about 2 seconds slower per lap than the race winning Ferrari 458 Italia. Dyson would finish in 18th place, Leitzinger would finish in 41st.
Sunday’s weather didn’t offer much opportunity for a better performance as it rained steady all day. Leitzinger started in 16th, Dyson in 20th based on their fastest laps the day before. The cars were consistent and Chris Dyson lead Leitzinger across the finish line with the two Bentley Continental GT3’s finishing 17th and 18th. Their lap times, like the rest of the field, were nearly 30 seconds slower than the day before.
All in all, it wasn’t a terrible weekend for Team Bentley Dyson Racing. Surely they wished it would’ve come out differently, but there were several bright spots including the way the cars launched off the line at the start and the way they were able to run their qualifying laps.
This is going to be an incredibly competitive racing series again this year. The Porsche 911 GTSR’s looked tough as usual and so did the new Cadillac ATS-V’s. The fun part of this series is that the courses are all so different. It will be fun to watch the strengths and weaknesses of these GT cars shine through as they move through the schedule.