Bentley Team M-Sport made a strong start to its 2015 European season, with the #7 Continental GT3 of British trio Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane finishing a provisional second-in-class (fourth overall) in the opening round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Italy's famous Monza track. The sister #8 car of new Bentley Boy team Maxi Buhk, Maxime Soulet and Andy Soucek fought through the field, overcoming multiple challenges to climb 23 places overall and finish provisional P12 and eighth-in- class, also scoring championship points.

Both cars endured some bad luck during the race, with higher results being limited after cars were forced off the track by slower competitors. However, the result bodes well for the season ahead, and Bentley's Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush, was satisfied with the outcome:

"This is the start to our season that we were looking for. We've spent the off-season focusing on the setup of the Continental GT3, and we're now seeing the results of those efforts. I'm delighted that car #7 has scored some really valuable championship points, and equally impressed by the hard-fought position of car #8. Buhk, Soulet and Soucek had to fight from P35 on the grid after a harsh penalty, and overcame a puncture and some questionable driving from our competition to finish in the points. We'll be aiming to build from here for the next round, our home race at Silverstone."

The Story of The Race

After a very busy morning qualifying session that saw all 59 entrants fighting on-track for grid position, the two Continental GT3s lined up 10th (car #7) and 35th (car #8) for the three-hour race. Guy Smith drove the opening stint in car #7, climbing four places at the start to sit P6 before snatching P5 by lap 10. Andy Meyrick took over from Guy after an hour, driving a solid stint that saw him pit from P7 to hand the car to Steven Kane. Steven immediately set to work, taking P6 before being spun off the track after being hit from behind by a competitor. Fortunately, he rejoined without issue and maintained the place, and was able to finish provisional P4 overall and second-in-class.

Car #8 had a more eventful race, but still managed to finish in the top 10 in class and earn valuable championship points. Maxi Buhk started the race, climbing all the way to P19 in his stint before a right rear puncture forced him to pit several laps early. Maxime Soulet replaced Maxi behind the wheel, and drove an exceptional stint to climb to P10 overall. Andy Soucek took control with an hour left in the race, climbing to P9 early in his stretch. Unfortunately, more bad luck was to hit car #8, after two different competitors forced Andy off the track, costing him places. The eventual, provisional result of P12 overall was sweetened by being eigth-in-class place and so scoring four valuable championship points.

Driver Quotes

Guy Smith, car #7: "I'm pleased with my performance today and very satisfied with our result. We arrived here with a good setup for our car that we refined in the practice sessions. I was concerned about the start – Monza is a very tricky place to start a race, especially with 60 cars on the grid, but I had a great start and made four places in to the first chicane. From there I was able to manage my position well, and Andy and Steven did the rest. We've made a running start to the season and I can't wait for Silverstone."

Andy Meyrick, car #7: "This has been a really good opening race for us. The car felt fantastic, really balanced and driveable, and even though we were outpaced by some cars that haven't yet been properly performance-balanced, we've scored a class podium and leave here with great championship points. Our home race is next and I'm really hoping we can be back on the podium in front of the British fans."

Steven Kane, car #7: "As usual, Guy and Andy drove mega stints to put me in a position to push hard to the finish. The car was so much more balanced than this time last year, but getting hit from behind and spun off the track was really frustrating – I was really enjoying my stint and making great progress. Leaving here with trophies feels fantastic though, and we've made the championship start that we were aiming for."

Maxi Buhk, car #8: "After a really tough qualifying this morning, and the 10-place grid penalty, this was about recovering as best we could. The reality was better than that – we could push our car hard, and the setup was perfect. Between us we climbed 23 places, despite all the challenges. I had to end my stint early when I got a puncture going through Parabolica, but the pit crew responded so quickly that we minimised the time lost."

Maxime Soulet, car #8: "This was my first race as a Bentley Boy, and I loved it. The Continental GT3 was superb today – to climb places the way we did needed a really driveable, stable car, and when we pushed it rewarded us. We could've done even better if it wasn't for the issues that weren't out fault today, but even so we've scored points in our first race and that feels great. I'm really optimistic for the next race."

Andy Soucek, car #8: "That was a crazy race. Maxi and Maxime drove really well to get us in to the top ten, but luck just wasn't with us today. I was pleased with my pace in my stint, but then I was hit and forced off-track twice in the closing laps – costing me four places. I still think this was a good race for us though, as we get to know our race car more and more. We can definitely challenge for podiums and wins if we continue where we left off today."

Race results available in full at www.blancpain-gt-series.com

*The race result is provisional, pending the outcome of an appeal from the GRT Grasser Racing Team to their exclusion from the race.