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October 20, 2017

One To Watch: Duncan Tappy

One To Watch: Duncan Tappy

When Duncan Tappy signed-on to become a Bentley Boy he was joining a line of distinguished predecessors, and a short line at that, since there have only been a dozen or so factory Bentley drivers in the marque’s history. The Continental GT3 was revealed to the public a year ago at the Goodwood Festival of Speed where it did a demonstration run to much acclaim from the many admirers keen to see a racing return from one of the historic and most evocative of marques. Heightening the anticipation of many, the Continental GT3 wasn’t seen very much in the UK as competitive running was restricted to the Gulf 12 Hours, held at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, where the Team M-Sport car finished in fourth place, before its debut season in Blancpain meant it was on show at the test day at Paul Ricard in April this year.

Bentley’s return to racing has been been very well received to say the least, and their drivers have been kept pretty busy off the track with press and PR work as well as on it at the Monza opener and Silverstone one month later. M-Sport Bentley brought both cars entered home in 7th & 8th at Monza, where Tappy’s #8 crossed the line 44s behind the leader. For the team to follow that up with a win at Silverstone in the next round for the #7 Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick, Steven Kane car is little short of astonishing. The Leclerc, D’Ambrosio, Tappy #8 car finished a lap down in 15th due to a bit of bad luck, a left-rear puncture occuring on the opening lap after contact with the #43 Roal Motorsport BMW Z4, rather than an absence of talent.

Tappy became a fully fledged Bentley boy after tests proved his successes in single seaters were transferrable to the big sportscar. And it is big, especially compared to Formula Ford where Tappy first made his name winning thirteen consecutive races in 2005 and winning the end-of-season Formula Ford Festival at the second attempt. In 2006 he made the move to ‘wings & slicks’, racing British Formula Renault 2.0 with Jamun Racing where he acquitted himself sufficiently well to be awarded ‘Rising Star’ status by the British Racing Drivers Club. A further season of Formula Renault in 2007, this time with Fortec, saw Tappy win nine races, end the year as series champion, and receive further BRDC recognition by being nominated for the McLaren Autosport British Racing Drivers Club Award.

But for a title sponsor changing their mind at the last minute, 2008 would have seen a full season entry into the World Series by Renault. Despite this, however, a switch to A1 GP for Great Britain,  the Monza 1,000km made for a sportscar debut in a Pescarolo Judd, and Porsche Carrera Cup kept the drives coming until half-way through the season an oportunity arose with RC Motorsport and Tappy replaced Borja Garcia in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series for the final 8 races. 2008 also saw a debut in the Superleague Formula, which was to provide a mainstay for the following three seasons where Tappy finished 6th in the championship in 2010, the same year that he raced in the Auto GP Series for DAMS, finishing 3rd overall behind fellow DAMS drivers Edoard Piscopo and Romain Grosjean. A side note, also putting in an Auto GP cameo that season was a young Alex Sims, now a factory BMW driver racing GT3 with Ecurie Ecosse in British GT.

2012 was the year that Duncan moved into sportscar racing, signing-on for a season in the Blancpain Endurance Series driving a McLaren for the French ART Grand Prix team in the Pro-Am Cup category. Consistent point-scoring meetings, a win at the final meeting at Navarra made for a successful debut season; ART GP were 4th in the Teams’ standings and Tappy finished 5th in the drivers’ championship with 58 points, a case of ‘oh so close’ due to the only DNF of the season recorded at the double points scoring Spa meeting.

Clearly having developed a taste for sportscar racing, Tappy remained in a McLaren for 2013, with Von Ryan for 5 rounds in British GT scoring a podium finish at Snetterton, and also kept a hand in endurance racing by competing in the Silverstone and Paul Ricard rounds of Blancpain Endurance in the Black Falcon Mercedes SLS. Thi was sufficient to pique the interests of Malcolm Wilson, M-Sport’s founder, when his team began preparing the Continental GT3 for a full Blancpain Endurance season in 2014. Invited to the BES test day at Paul Ricard in April this year, Tappy showed his speed sufficiently well to highlight the Continental’s potential (it was by far the quickest car on the day in pre-BoP format) and to be invited to join a very exclusive club, the Bentley Boys.

Q. What would you say the highlight of your career has been?

A. The highest point for me has to be signing to be a Bentley Boy, and that’s not a PR line. It is so, so, special. I believe that there have only been 11 Bentley Boys so far and to be in that elite club is amazing.

Q. What would you say the lowlight of your career has been?

A. I had a sposnsor from Dubai in 2008 for a long-term programme and it all fell through. To be left with nothing after enjoying the high of where that was going to go was particularly hard. That and to be excluded from a race in British Formula Renault, which I had won, for a technical issue was galling. Another team objected to a style of bolt used to secure the floor tray, the bolts had the ‘wrong’ type of head from which we were supposed to have gained an advantage, and they got us thrown out for it. But, having said that, you can use these things positively and I came back to win the next two races and took the Championship.

Q. BES is only five rounds, what else are you up to this year?

A. I’ve been asked that quite a lot recently. I coach, I’m helping an up and coming young driver called Lando Norris in Ginetta Junior [Editor’s note: Norris was 2nd last time out in Rd 9]. I still do a little bit of manufacturing work, there’s all of the corporate Bentley stuff, time spent in the gym, and a cheeky round of golf if I get the chance. As well as some charity work; golfing with Oliver Millroy, David Seaman, and Hugh Grant was good fun.

Q. What would be the ultimate achievement for you as a driver?

A. I think that to win any of the long distance races; the Spa 24h is a massive event in GT3 racing and if you can win that then it is pretty special, along with Nurburgring 24h, and, of course, Le Mans. I think that every racing driver who is into their endurance racing wants to win Le Mans. I think that has to be the ultimate goal really.

Q. Do you see Bentley going back to Le Mans? (Other than as a discreetly re-sprayed Audi that is!)

A. I honestly don’t know is the truthful answer but if they do then I would love to be a part of it!

About The Author

Nathan Heywood

Nathan Heywood is the Blancpain GT Series correspondent and Racing.GT's tech guru. With his iconic moustache sadly hidden from view, you will be hearing a lot of Nathan's gentle Norfolk tones behind the microphone in Racing.GT's Periscope coverage.