Feb 8, 2015
(Bathurst, Australia)—It was a wild finish at the Mount Panorama circuit in Bathurst that had Bentley Motorsport barely missing out on a masterful victory.
Behind the wheel of the #10 Continental GT3, driver Matt Bell (supported by Guy Smith and Steven Kane) powered his way into the lead during the final 60-minutes of the 12-hour race before being overtaken by the #35 Nissan.
Bell and the rest of Bentley Motorsport would have been thrilled with a second-place finish but a spot of bad luck and some untimely contact from other cars forced #10 into a near spin-out at the final corner.
Bell would ultimately settle for a fourth -place posting.
The GT3 race results for the Bentley sister car #11, featuring Andy Soucek, Maximilian Buhk and Harold Primat, suffered from far worse fortune.
Despite cracking their way into to the top ten during the first few hours of the race, a series of drive-through penalties pushed #11 back down the ladder. Adding insult to injury, rear-end contact during the 11th hour resulted in a drive-train failure quickly forcing retirement from the race.
How It Happened…
Starting from P10, the #10 Continental GT3 trio masterfully climbed to P4 over an opening double-stint. On lap 66, driver Guy Smith handed the wheel over to Matt Bell who quickly navigated his way to P2 and actually assuming P1 when other racers pitted behind the safety car.
Unfortunately, a blocked drinking tube coupled with scalding cabin temperatures inspired by the 30°C + degree heat forced Bell to pit ahead of schedule as heat-related fatigue set in.
Bell’s pit dropped the car back to P10, a position tactfully maintained, and then surpassed, by replacement driver Steven Kane. By lap 131, Kane had taken the car all the way to P3 before handing the reins over to starting driver Guy Smith.
Smith wasted little time in making his second presence on the circuit felt, motoring with meticulous speed to claim P2 by lap 162.
The car’s position fluctuated between P2 and P6 for the next 60+ until driver Steven Kane managed to punch Bentley Motorsport through to P1 on lap 230.
Kane held the lead for the next 12 laps until giving the car back to Matt Bell for the final push to the finish. From the pit, Bell rejoined on lap 242 at P3 before making his way back to P1 as other teams made their last pit stops.
As the closing minutes of the race ticked away on the race clock, two safety car appearances added some serious tension. While Bell held the lead following the first race restart, he was unable to ward off the more powerful #35 Nissan during the second.
A runner-up finish was all but secured until a dramatic fight for third-place between the #15 Audi and the #97 Aston Martin forced Bell off his line. The fireworks almost sent the #10 car into a spin, but Bell showed great skill in maintaining control and powering the car through to an impressive, though slightly disappointing fourth-place finish.
Continental GT3 sister car #11 started from P21 on the grid. Maximilian Buhk opened the circuit, finding gaps in the opening laps to climb all the way to P10 before transferring the wheel to Harold Primat on lap 29.
Primat endured a very challenging stint that involved two drive-through penalties following race restart infractions and a serious spin due to contact with a backmarker. At the conclusion of his two-hour driving session, Harold pitted from P21, which is where Andy Soucek started a recovery. From lap 81 to lap 143, Soucek climbed eight places to secure P13. Primat then retook the wheel until lap 170 when a fully-rejuvenated Buhk rejoined the race in P12.
From there on out, the #11 car fought admirably, clawing tooth and nail for position but ultimately succumbing to atrocious luck on lap 253 when a failure in the drive-train left the car stranded on the circuit forcing a very unhappy retirement.
Race Result – Top 10
|1||NISMO Athlete Global Team||#35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3||K. Chiyo / W. Reip / F. Strauss||0||2:03.9769|
|2||Phoenix Racing||#15 Audi R8-LMS Ultra||L. Vanthoor / M. Mapelli / M. Winkelhock||2.4529||2:03.3091|
|3||Craft Bamboo Racing||#97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3||S. Mucke / A. MacDowell / D. O’YOung||2.8016||2:04.4514|
|4||Bentley Team M-Sport||#10 Bentley Continental GT3||M.Bell / G. Smith / S.Kane||3.7821||2:05.1808|
|5||Erebus Motorsport||#36 Mercedes SLS AMG GT3||J. LeBrocq / R. Muscat / D. Canto||3.9430||2:04.5607|
|6||Vicious Rumour Racing||#49 Ferrari F458 Italia GT3||A. Montermini /||1 lap||2:05.5603|
|7||JBS Australia||#32 Lamborghini LP 560||D. Russell / S. Owen / R. Lago||1 lap||2:04.8101|
|8||Clearwater Racing||#33 Ferrari F458 Italia GT3||T.Vilander / M. Griffin / M.W. Sun||1 lap||2:04.8706|
|9||Phoenix Racing||#16 Audi R8-LMS Ultra||S. Ortelli / C. Haase / F. Baumgartner||1 lap||2:05.0164|
|10||Hallmarc / Network Clothing||#9 Audi R8-LMS Ultra||C. Mies / M. Eddy / M. Cini||2 laps||2:05.0948|
|DNF||#11 Bentley Team M-Sport||#11 Bentley Continental GT3||M. Buhk / A. Soucek / H. Primat||N/A||2:05.1746|