Tag Archives: Guy Smith

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

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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.

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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)