Bentley has won Bathurst 12 Hour, the opening round of the 2020 Intercontinental GT Challenge, with its #7 Continental GT3 and drivers Maxime Soulet (BEL), Jordan Pepper (ZAR) and Jules Gounon (FRA).
Motorsport is known for creating some of the greatest sporting stories, and this week Bentley Team M-Sport became the protagonist of a tale that saw its crew scale a mountain, both literally and metaphorically.
In the first day of practice, an engine issue for car #7 and sensor fault on car #8 resulted in limited running for the team, as the pit crew worked hard in extreme heat to repair the 4.0-litre V8-engined Continental GT3 machines, based on the Continental GT grand tourer. But, that wasn’t the end of the bad luck for the British manufacturer - the following day, a collision with the wall gave the car #8 technicians a second late night in a row, as they rebuilt the car for the race.
Car #7 started P11, but quickly moved up through the order into podium contention. World-class stints from Soulet, Pepper and Gounon, and strong strategy and pit stops from the team, moved the team into P1 for a total time of seven hours – with the car running flawlessly. A superb reactionary pit-stop just over an hour from the end to deal with a puncture was the final act from the team to set the car up for victory. Rain loomed while ambient temperatures exceeded 40°C, but after the half-day sprint the #7 Continental GT3 crossed the line as the winner of the Bathurst 12 Hour. As they took the chequered flag, the crew also set a new race distance record of 314 laps - before the heavens opened and the team rejoiced in the rain.
Car #8’s performance was just as strong, but luck was not on the side of the British driving trio of Oliver Jarvis (GBR), Al Buncombe (GBR) and Seb Morris (GBR). After starting from the pit lane following the all-night repairs, they climbed through the pack of 35 cars into the top six, even leading the race for a lap at the half-way point. In contention for a podium finish, the car was unfortunately retired four hours from the end thanks to damage sustained by a punctured rear tyre.
Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, Paul Williams, comments:
“What a weekend. Our crew has been pushed to its limits but shown that whatever racing throws at you, you must never give up. It’s been a long-deserved Intercontinental GT Challenge win for our Continental GT3 – we’ve been in contention many times, especially here at Bathurst, so it feels good to finally make it stick. It’s a great way to start our season and we hope it is a sign of things to come for our customer teams around the world as we embark on our largest motorsport programme to date.”
The next round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge is the 24 Hours of Spa in July, so Bentley and M-Sport’s attention will now return to the customer racing teams and the new Bentley Motorsport Academy, along with expanded testing and development programmes.
Jordan Pepper: “This is by far the biggest win of my career. When I handed over with two hours to go I knew we were in safe hands with Jules, but then the puncture came and our stomachs were in our throats. But, our strategy was immaculate and we saw it through. This is a fantastic achievement for everyone at Bentley Team M-Sport and couldn’t be more deserved.”
Jules Gounon: “It’s amazing for the team - for us to win such a legendary race. JP did a great job at the start, and both him and Max gave me a great car and position to do my job at the end. Let’s dream about the championship but for today enjoy this and celebrate with the team who gave us the win!”
Maxime Soulet: “I can’t describe my feeling. To win this Bathurst 12 Hour with such a competitive field of cars and drivers is insane. And we did it as a team. We were clever when we needed to be and pushed when we needed to push. What an amazing job from the team, they didn’t put one foot wrong even after such a difficult start to the week and with little sleep. We won this as a team and they deserve the credit as much as we do.”