Tag Archives: Bentley

Race Win and Titles for WRT at Nürburgring

Laurens Vanthoor and Belgian Audi Club Team WRT took the Blancpain Endurance PRO drivers and Teams championships respectively following a comfortable victory for the #1 car at the very wet Nürburgring finale.


With a six hour race in prospect and so many teams and drivers still in contention for all of the Blancpain Endurance championship accolades it was with great anticipation that we made the long drive to the Eifel region of Germany.

Staying at the Hotel Zur Burg in ‘motorsport mad’ Nürburg itself allowed a short walk to the GP Circuit to catch the friday ‘bronze driver test’ shortly after arrival.  You always remember the first sight of a new track and the heavy braking zone into turn 1 was as good as any; offering great viewing of the first 4 corners of the circuit.  After a couple of Bitburgers, an awesome Argentinian steak at the Pistenklause restaurant and a brief watch of the German translation of Indiana Jones we were primed and ready for 2 full days of action at the track.


Weather wise, Saturday morning was a stunner, with the 90 minute free practice session starting in near perfect conditions.  Soon however, in true Nürburgring style, the fog would come in, followed by a heavy downpour later in the day.  With a 90 minute Pre Qualifying session as well as a 1 hour session to set the grid, the drivers managed to witness nearly all possible weather conditions in one day.  The 240 minutes of track time to go with the 6 hour race and good quality support events also making the €30 weekend admission fee very good value for money.

While the #7 Bentley in the hands of Steven Kane went quickest in the first session, Andy Meyrick was not able to better this before the rain came down in the second.


The two PRO WRT Audi’s on the other hand managed to put in great times early on, with Christopher Mies in the #1 R8 setting a 1:55.708 to take provisional pole.

And although the cars still came out for the very wet third session there was no chance of improvements being made leaving the #52 Ferrari of Marco Seefried, Francesco Castellachi and Johnny Laursen to take the PRO-AM pole with third on the grid and Kane’s session 1 time in the M-Sport Bentley being quick enough to complete the second row.


Alexander Mattschull meanwhile was the quickest gentleman trophy runner in the #458 Ferrari with a 1:58.994.









Black Falcon


“Kein gutes wetter” was how we were greeted at breakfast.  The thick fog, which would cause the cancellation of the Formula Renault race, easing after the emergence of heavy rain; heavy enough to question whether the race may be delayed as a result.  Treacherous conditions are common place  in this part of the world however and pleasingly, although behind the safety car, the race got under-way at the scheduled 11.45am start time.


And even more pleasingly the safety car was in the pit lane 20 minutes later.  The field managed to tip-toe around turn one, but by the time the cars reached the exit of the Mercedes Arena, the championship contending #98 ART Mclaren and #26 Santeloc Audi had already clashed, with each losing several laps in the pits and effectively ending their title hopes.  This left just the #7 Bentley, #1 WRT Audi and #84 HTP Mercedes to battle it out for the PRO cup honours.

Up front, the lead WRT Audi of pole sitter Christopher Mies had a real battle on his hands in trying to keep the #99 ART Mclaren of Kevin Estre behind.  After several laps of trying the Frenchman finally getting passed with a brilliantly brave move down the inside of turn 1.  Estre was not able to pull away though with the gap remaining at roughly 1 second throughout the entirety of the first stint.  The big Bentley on the other hand was struggling in the conditions, falling back and losing touch with the lead pair.

Conversely Alex Buncombe in the PRO-AM RJN Nissan was flying, passing several cars including the #52 Ferrari of Seefried to take the class lead.  And after the first round of pit stops, an inspired decision to leave take fuel only meant the red and white machine would emerge from pit lane in the lead of the race with the 2 HTP Mercedes also managing to make up ground.  Cesar Ramos now in the #1 Audi meanwhile was unable to match the pace of Mies and was falling back along with the #99 Mclaren of Kevin Korjus.

The only other safety car period, roughly half way through the race proved to be controversial to say the least, somehow picking up the second place car in error, allowing the #19 Black Falcon Mercedes (leading as a result of a late pit stop) to blast around to the pits and still emerge in the lead.  This break in proceedings also brought the #1 Audi back into contention with Mies reinstated at the wheel.

Others were not so lucky.  Alex Buncombe’s hard work in building a healthy race lead came to nothing as his PlayStation academy team mates were unable to keep pace, quickly falling foul of the very rapid Nick Catsburg in the #12 TDS BMW who was now leading PRO-AM.


Meanwhile the championship contending Bentley was not only struggling in the wet, but also suffering drive through penalties as a result of pit lane speeding and pit-stop infringements meaning their only hope lay with a WRT retirement.

As the race settled back down it wasn’t long before Mies was on the tail of Hubert Haupt’s Black Falcon Mercedes and taking the lead of the race.  And by the time Laurens Vanthoor took over the car, the PRO Cup title was firmly in his grasp as the #84 HTP Mercedes, piloted by Harold Primat, lost several minutes in the gravel at the final corner.

While the Belgian was able to cruise to victory, a drying track presented the opportunity for the slick shod #85 Mercedes, with Step Dussledorp at the wheel, to rapidly close on Abdul Al Faisal (now in #19), taking second place from the similar machine with just half an hour left on the clock.


Further back, Alexander Sims in the Triple 888 Racing BMW and Steven Kane in the #7 Bentley were setting the track alight.  And for once the works BMW pilot was ‘out foxed’ by Kane heading into turn 1 as they both came through the field, with Kane eventually finishing 8th, and Sims just one place further back.

In PRO-AM no one was able to get near Catsburg’s BMW as he and Henry Hassid finished a very credible 4th overall to take the class victory.  While Castellachi’s championship hopes were ended with a trip to the gravel, second in PRO-AM went to the Black Falcon Mercedes of Devon Modell, Anders Fjordbach and Vladimir Lunkin, with championship victors Thomas Kemenater, Stefano Gai and Andrea Rizzoli taking third in the Scuderia Villorba Corse Ferrari.


Ian Loggie and Julian Westwood put in a solid performance to take the Gentleman Trophy honours with 17th overall in their Audi R8 while 7th in class was enough for Peter Mann, Filipe Barreiros and Francisco Guedes to take the crown in their Ferrari 458.

GTR Victory


In many respects I am glad that we saw the Nürburgring in typical wet conditions as anything else just would not have seemed right.  It is amazing how well the circuit coped with such a continual downpour and proved that in a health and safety mad world very wet races can still take place on well drained tracks.

The viewing at this famous German track was second to none with half the circuit visible from the BMW and Mercedes grandstands and whilst I wasn’t able to understand much of the circuit commentary, replacing the battery in my Iphone before travelling had enabled the excellent Blancpain timing app to keep me updated throughout the race.  My only real gripe being that half of the circuit was not open to the public meaning the usual anti-clockwise loop to take in an endurance event was not possible.

Whilst my quest to visit more European circuits will almost certainly mean we won’t return next year the 2014 running of the Nurburgring 1000 will definitely go down as one of my favourite motorsport weekends.  I do hope that the Blancpain series stays as competitive next year with Paul Ricard and Monza being possible trips.  Roll on 2015 …

Full Results






For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)



Maiden Win on home soil for M-Sport Bentley

The #7 M-Sport Bentley of Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane claimed a sensational debut win at Silverstone; round 2 of the Blancpain Endurance Series.  This being the first time in 84 years that the ‘Works’ Bentley Motorsport team had raced in the UK.


Although having only arrived back in the UK hours earlier I was determined to make it to Silverstone to see the ‘Works’ Bentley’s take on some of Europe’s best GT teams and drivers.  A prospect made even more attractive by the 1 hour qualifying session scheduled for the morning of the race.

Following Saturday’s downpours and more overnight rain, a damp track faced the competitors as the clock struck 9am.  With the qualifying hour being split into 3 fifteen minute blocks, it looked like the final of these sessions would yield the pole time with the track becoming dryer and dryer.

With this in mind there was always the potential for a mixed up grid but I can’t imagine the #93 Pro GT by Almeras Porsche would have been anyone’s tip for pole.  Although aided by a slightly curtailed session due to a red flag, Franck Perera still put in a stunning lap of 2:00.912 to claim the top spot by 0.151 seconds.  The #98 ART McLaren in the hands of Alvaro Parente would take second spot with great laps from Alex Buncombe in the RJN Nissan and Steven Kane in the #7 Bentley being rewarded with a starting position on row 2.

Qualifying pics

IMG_0054AB_LR_B&W IMG_0098AB_LR IMG_0011AB_LR IMG_0161A_LR

Caffeine was definitely required as the cars returned to their garages followed by a much needed sit down to watch the Lamborghini Super Trofeo race at Becketts.  After many years of visiting Silverstone it still amazes me how much speed the Pro drivers manage to carry through this section of track.

The lunch time pit walk was stress-free as very few spectators seem to be attracted to watch the Blancpain GT races.  I still can’t understand why people want to pay much more to watch touring cars drive each other off the track when you can come and watch Europe’s elite GT drivers battle it out fairly (generally anyway) in a proper tactical endurance race!  Having never been a massive fan of the new Wing complex it was also refreshing to be back in the ‘National’ Pit lane.


40+ GT cars forming up to take the rolling start at 2.55pm was an awesome sight.  Inevitably as the Bronze graded driver, Eric Dermont, was starting the #93 Porsche it wasn’t long before the Pro GT By Almeras entry dropped back down the field.  In fact Alvaro Parente in the #98 ART Grand Prix McLaren had taken the lead before the cars had even made it through Copse corner with the #7 Bentley of Guy Smith and the #99 McLaren of Kevin Estre following suit.

And by the end of the first lap my prediction of a McLaren victory looked very likely as Parente had built up a healthy lead.  However 2003 Le Mans winner Smith was able to peg the gap at roughly 3 seconds with Estre close behind in the Sister McLaren.

Traffic however caused issues for the Bentley and the more nimble McLaren in the hands of Estre was able to sneak by to make it an ART Grand Prix one two.  Things would soon get worse for the lead Bentley as Smith was given a drive-through penalty for overtaking under yellow flags.  To all intents and purposes it looked like the infamous British Marque’s challenge was over.

With the first hour up, the pit stops started to take place with Andy Meyrick taking over the #7, Gregoire Demoustier the #98 and Kevin Korjus climbing aboard the #99.  For some reason the #98 seemed to fall off the pace and was quickly swallowed up by the sister #99 car of Korjus.


Meanwhile Meyrick had the bit between his teeth and was soon back up to third.  And with a succession of qualifying like laps it wasn’t long before he had caught and passed the struggling #98 McLaren.

In Pro-AM, British GT regular, Joe Osborne was putting in a great drive to not only lead the class but to also lead the race as the MP Motorsport Aston chose to stay out longer to minimise Bronze driver Mark Poole’s time in the car.  It looked like a great tactic with several faster drivers due to take over the other AM cars for the final stint.   Unfortunately a safety car period shortly after Poole had taken over blew their tactics right out of the water with their healthy lead being completely wiped out.

Up front however the safety car had played into Bentley’s hands as the 16 second lead between the top two had been dramatically shortened.  With the track back to green flag conditions the race was most definitely back on.  Steven Kane, now in the #7, seemed to have the pace to catch former Formula 2 champ and Williams test driver, Andy Soucek in the #99 McLaren.  And to the delight of the home crowd Kane managed to take the lead with a move down the inside at copse with only twenty minutes of the race remaining.

With the #98 McLaren continuing to struggle in the hands of Alexandre Premat, the battle for the final step on the Pro podium was an all Audi affair.  Gregory Guilvert in the #26 Audi was driving the wheels off the Sainteloc machine but the experience of Laurens Vanthoor in the #1 WRT Audi finally paid off as he was able to snatch third place on the very last lap.

IMG_0771A_LR IMG_0349A_LR_B&W

As anticipated Poole was not able to maintain the Pro-AM lead; however he did manage to bring the MP Motorsport Aston home in a very respectable second place behind the very quick RJN Nissan of Alex Buncombe and the GT Academy boys.


The Roal Motorsport BMW Z4 was just able to hold onto third in class with the very rapid Nicholas Armindo’s similar machine less than a second further back as the chequered flag was dropped.


Further-back, the Gentleman trophy honours went the way of Alexander Mattschull and Frank Schmickler in the aptly numbered 458 GT Corse By Rinaldi Ferrari.


The similar machine of AF Corse crew, Filipe Barreiros, Peter Mann and Francisco Guedes claimed second in class, with the #22 Team Parker Racing Audi R8 of Ian Loggie, Chris Jones and Julian Westwood rounding out the podium.

The relatively small crowd gave the ‘Bentley Boys’ a well deserved cheer as they took to the podium.  It was great to see an all British team and crew win a major International motor race on home soil.  I for one genuinely can’t remember seeing this happen before; The 2010 Nissan GT-R Tourist Trophy Victory for Jamie Campbell-Walter and Warren Hughes only being awarded after a respective exclusion and penalty for the two cars that finished ahead of it on the road.

Although a little fortunate with the safety car, it really was a great drive from the all British Bentley crew.  Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane put in some phenomenal lap times to drag themselves back into contention and take what, at one point, seemed an unlikely victory.

A few more pics from the race


Full Results are available on the Blancpain Website – Link

Some of the drivers on display last weekend will be taking part in my next racing fix; The 24 hours of Le Mans; THE major highlight in my Motorsport year.  But before then it is back to rallying with the Dukeries Rally in nearby Robin Hood Country.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

The Old and The New

Having decided against the long trip up north for the Pirelli International rally, a visit to both the Donington Historic Festival and Rockingham’s round of the British GT championship was in order for the May Day bank holiday weekend.

The Donington Historic Festival runs over three days, however it was the Sunday schedule that caught my eye, in part due to the last race of the day being the FIA Masters Historic Sportscar race.  A grid full of classic 60’s and 70’s Le Mans racers made it worth the trip alone.

Arriving at the circuit early gave us plenty of time to look around the multi million pound paddock before heading out around the track.  With the sun starting to appear from behind the clouds It looked like being a great day to show off these stunning machines.


There were some very well turned out cars on display in the HTCC Touring car race …..


….. however the first event that particularly caught my attention was the RAC Woodcote Trophy for the pre-56 Sportscars.  The iconic fin of the D type Jaguar makes it one of my favourite Le Mans winners from the past and this 60 minute event contained a couple of well driven examples.

Regular historic pilot Gary Pearson was actually entered in 2 of them which paid dividends when the #7 went out early on.  Fortunately he was able to get back to the pits, take over from Carlos Monteverde in the white #5 and claim second spot on the podium!


However this formidable pairing could not keep up with the very fast Cooper T38 of Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards who claimed the victory by more than 12 seconds.

Some of the best sounding cars of the day were the 2 litre Sportscars in the HSCC Martini Trophy where ex BTCC racer Ian Flux put in a stonking drive from the back of the grid to take a magnificent victory.  Driving the Osella PA3 he didn’t have it all his own way as once getting to the front he was re-passed by the similarly rapid Lola T210 of David Gathercole.  It was looking difficult to pick the eventual winner but unfortunately Gathercole pushed slightly too hard through McLean’s on lap 19, losing the back end and becoming beached in the unforgiving Donington gravel.

The Pre-66 Under 2 litre Touring Car race was yet another highlight with a field full of MK1 Cortina’s, BMW T1800’s, Minis and even the odd Alfa.


It was in fact the Alfa Sprint GTA of Andrew and Max Banks who would eventually get the better of Jackie Oliver and Richard Shaw’s T1800.  The ex Le Mans winner did take an early lead but could not keep the rapid Alfa crew behind for long.  It was a pleasure to watch these machines being man handled around the track; the way they are thrown into the corners with masses of opposite lock is a sight not often seen in modern-day racing.

With the light starting to fade, it was time for the FIA Masters Historic Sportscar race.  I absolutely love the fact that the main event was held at this time of day as there is just something about watching racing in the late evening sunshine.


The throaty roar as the green flag was dropped was phenomenal, bettered only by the sound of a full field of endurance legends, headed up by no less than 7 Lola T70’s, disappearing down the infamous Craner Curves;  Oh to have witnessed these at Le Mans in period.

In actual fact the race didn’t turn out to be that close as ex British GT racer Oliver Bryant showed his class by taking victory by more than a lap in the #14 T70.


But who cares!  The sight of these 5 Litre Chevy engined powerhouses lapping traffic around the undulating tarmac of Leicestershire’s famous circuit was just fantastic.  My ears were still ringing by the time I was back at base with a beer in hand.  This had been one of the best days racing in a long time.


A day of modern racing was in order on Bank Holiday Monday with my first ever trip to Rockingham Motor Speedway.  And with the circuit little over an hour away I can’t believe I had never visited before.

The sheer size of the 52,000 seater American Style oval becomes apparent as you arrive; more like a football stadium than a race track.  But what I like most about the place is that it was obviously put together with the fan in mind as the access is second to none.  Silverstone could definitely do with a Rockingham style underground tunnel and being able to watch a race from the top of the pit garages is just great; an experience I had only previously witnessed at Spa.

In fact the only negative of the day was the lack of interest in the support races with the once formidable British F3 championship attracting just 7 entries and disappointingly only 6 cars making the start of the 1 hour Aston Martin GT4 event!

However, the British GT race was the main reason for being there and with 29 cars on the grid it promised to be 2 hours to remember.  The spacious pit walk prior to the race allowed a closer look at both the cars and drivers as the pre-race excitement started to build.

IMG_9526_B&W2A_LRA IMG_9518A_LR

Marco Attard and Works BMW driver Alexander Sims had carried on their Oulton form by taking a comfortable pole position in the Ecurie Ecosse Z4.  They would start the race as clear favourites for victory and Marco Attard was able to get away in the lead from the off.  Derek Johnston in a similar Z4 would soon get by Mark Patterson’s United Autosports Audi R8 to take second with 2013 champion Andrew Howard following suit in the Aston.

Sir Chris Hoy had made a wild start to the race by ‘out-braking’ himself heading into Deene on the first lap and being lucky to get away with a brush with the wall.  His pace is there for all to see however, and I am pretty sure it won’t be long before he is running much closer to the front.


Inevitably it wasn’t long before a safety car was required to recover Tania Mann’s Ginetta.  Much of Attard’s early effort to build a lead had therefore been negated as the race returned to green flag conditions.  Soon after the pit window opened and the majority of the contenders for victory pitted with the Ecurie Ecosse BMW’s lead not being of the necessary margin to cope with the Oulton Park success penalty.  Sims would therefore rejoin in fifth behind, the yet to pit, Gary Eastwood’s Ferrari, the similar machine of Richard Lyons and the two Triple 8 Z4’s of Luke Hines and Joe Osborne.

Eastwood staying out in the FF Corse Ferrari turned out to be either a master stroke or, more likely, a lucky break as a second safety car was required to remove John Gaw’s Aston and Morten Don’s Ginetta.  This allowed the Ferrari crew to get Rob Barff strapped in and leave pit road with a 40 second lead over the rest of the field.  Even a drive through for exiting the pit lane while the red light was showing could not stop them taking an 18 second victory.

Behind, Alexander Sims was showing everyone why he was not only the 2008 McLaren Autosport BRDC award winner but also why he is now a factory BMW driver.  He was soon up to second with the pass to take this position being absolutely breathtaking; taking advantage of a backmarker and coming from way back to slip down the inside of Lyons on the entry to Deene.  A pleasure to watch from my now grandstand vantage point.

Other than a close battle between the triple 888 Z4’s, which saw Joe Osborne take a trip across the gravel, not a lot else happened throughout the remaining 40 minutes of the race.  This left Richard Lyons to take third place on the road only to be later handed a ten second penalty for driving standards when Pasin Lathouras was at the wheel.  This would drop them to 7th but promote Luke Hines and Derek Johnston to the final step of the podium.  Behind them Tom Onslow-Cole put in a stellar performance to take 4th in the Strata 21 Aston ahead of the similar machine of Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam.  Adam doing a great job in a damaged car.


Having started on the back row, and being given an early drive through for overtaking under yellow flags, John Dhillon and Aaron Scott put in a great a drive to claim 8th overall in the second AF Corse Ferrari 458.


The all new Generation Racing Bentley of  Steve Tandy and James Appleby struggled at Rockingham and ended up a lap down in 14th place.  It is however great to see this huge car in British GT and hopefully it will be nearer the sharper end of the grid as the season progresses.


All this leaves Alexander Sims and Marco Attard sitting pretty at the top of the championship points table.  And with Marco Attard being one of the quicker “Am” drivers this surely now makes them the clear favourites for the 2014 crown …

Full British GT results: Here

Next up it is back to Silverstone for the Blancpain Endurance Series.  I will be cheering on the very British Works Bentleys who will be looking to build on a strong performance at the Monza season opener.