Three of the ‘Bentley Boys 2014’, Steven Kane, Guy Smith, and Andy Meyrick, doubled-down to win their second Blancpain Endurance Series in a row after close fought racing with the pole position winning #98 ART Grand Prix McLaren MP4-12C driven by Alvaro Parente, Gregoire Demoustier and Nicolas Lapierre throughout the three hours at Paul Ricard.
Things were close as can be after the final pit-stops concluded, the M-sport Bentley retaining the narrowest of leads, and the gap to the leader see-sawed between one and six seconds throughout the final stint as the leaders dealt with the ever present traffic. At the chequered flag, the Crewe Cruiser had just a 1.1s lead over Woking’s finest. Their second win in three races put the #7 Bentley trio to the top of the Pro Cup driver standings whereas ART Grand Prix remain top of the team standings due to the retirement of the #8 Bentley after 40 laps.
Nick Catsburg and Henry Hassid took the Pro-Am Cup honours for TDS Racing BMW. Catsburg, who had qualified the #12 car in third, did well to hold ground amongst the Pro drivers in the first hour and then to make up ground during the middle stint, passing the car on to Hassid well placed in fourth overall. One could argue that Pro-Am wasn’t so much won by BMW but lost by Nissan. Katsumata Chiyo qualified the #35 GT Academy Team RJN car in P2 and whilst it was good in the twisty bits, it was visibly the fastest car down the long chicane-less Mistral straight. A combination, perhaps, of team mates not quite able to match Chiyo’s pace and the big Nissan’s inability to manage its tyre wear as well as the competition saw it fall back down the order and be passed by the #90 Scuderia Villorba Corse Ferrari in the second hour. Francesco Castellacci, driving the third stint in the #90 Ferrari gave Hassid something to think about as the Italian, who caught the eye at Monza, chased the Belgian down halving the 21s gap inherited after the pit stop. Hassid managed to hold on to the first place in Pro-Am as the Ferrari slowed, possibly tyre wear or possibly with one eye on the championship.
The earlier retirement of the #43 ROAL Motorsport BMW, leading Pro-Am after two rounds, meant finishing the race would put the Villorba Corsa trio, Castellacci and team mates Rizzoli and Gai, into the lead in the Pro-Am driver standings.
In the Gentlemen Trophy the indomitable #458 GT Corse by Rinaldi Ferrari of Alexander Matschull, Frank Schmickler, and Pierre Ehret made it three wins in three races. The German outfit proved their credentials for the title despite being out qualified by the Portugese Guedes in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari by a half second margin. Matschull had the race pace however and took the GTR class lead halfway through his middle stint, a lead that he built and which never looked under serious challenge.
Round 4 sees the Blancpain Endurance Series converge travel to Belgium for their ultimate challenge, the 24h of Spa-Francorchamps. After the official test day on 2nd July, the race procedings kick-off with the traditional driver parade through parade through Spa town. The meeting get underway with Free Practice, Qualifying, and Night Qualifying on Thursday 24th July. The ‘Super Pole’ Qualifying, that sets the grid order, takes place on Friday evening and the race itself gets underway at 14:30GMT Saturday 26th July 2014.