Paul Ricard Blancpain: Bentley beats ART McLaren to win again
|By Jack Nicholls||Saturday, June 28th 2014, 20:50 GMT|
The M-Sport Bentley squad moved to the top of the Blancpain Endurance Series after a thrilling 'into the night' race at Paul Ricard.
Alvaro Parente took the polesitting ART McLaren into the lead of the race, while the Bentley - in the hands of Guy Smith - fought through from seventh on the grid.
The second stint turned out to be the crucial one, as Gregoire Demoustier took over in the lead McLaren and subsequently lost the lead to the charging Andy Meyrick.
Once Nicolas Lapierre took over from Demoustier for the final stint, he pressed Steven Kane as the sun went down.
The gap ebbed and flowed while they dealt with lapping the slower cars, but Kane kept his nerve to take the flag 1.1 seconds clear of the chasing McLaren. The win also moves the car to the top of the championship heading to the Spa 24 Hours.
The battle for third place went down to the wire as well. There was a three-car train for the final podium spot, and ultimately in the closing laps Sergei Afanasiev stole the position away from his HTP Mercedes team-mate Nico Verdonck.
The Mercedes had been followed for the final hour by the Sainteloc Audi. Gregory Guilvert did a magnificent job in an underpowered R8 to stay with the Mercedes, but ultimately could not find a way past.
Sixth place overall and the win in Pro-Am went to Henry Hassid and Nick Catsburg. Catsburg was especially strong in the TDS Racing BMW Z4, at points being the quickest man on the circuit.
A second place finish in Pro-Am gives the championship lead to the Villorba Corse Ferrari of Francesco Castellacci, Stefano Gai and Andrea Rizzoli.
The Gentleman Trophy class was again won by the GT Corse by Rinaldi squad, continuing its unbeaten run in 2014.
Leading results - 88 laps: Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time/Gap 1. PRO Smith/Meyrick/Kane M-Sport Bentley 3h00m07.131s 2. PRO Lapierre/Demoustier/Parente ART McLaren +1.178s 3. PRO Wolf/Afanasiev/Dusseldorp HTP Mercedes +49.206s 4. PRO Primat/Verdonck/Buhk HTP Mercedes +50.015s 5. PRO Ortelli/Sandstrom/Guilvert Sainteloc Audi +50.550s 6. PAM Hassid/Catsburg TDS BMW +57.645s 7. PRO Nash/Stippler/Mies WRT Audi 1m05.582s 8. PAM Rizzoli/Gai/Castellacci Villorba Corse Ferrari 1m09.557s 9. PRO Al Faisal/Haupt/Simonsen Falcon Mercedes 1m29.645s 10. PAM Aksenov/Faisca/Chiyo RJN Nissan 1m49.042s Other class winners: 20. GTE Ehret/Mattschull/Schmickler Rinaldi Ferrari -2 laps