Bentley M Sport driver Guy Smith stands down after today’s Silverstone race as a factory driver. The team paid tribute to Guy in a somewhat ‘British’ fashion as the race weekend got underway, each team member in dis’Guy’se!
M Sport also organised a photocall with the whole team to mark the occasion (below).
Faces in the paddock
Amongst the faces in the paddock yesterday were ex F1 and CART star and 1992 Le Mans winner Mark Blundell, supporting Max DeFourny in the Renault Eurocup, Norbert Vettel, father of F1 Champion Sebastien and there to support younger son Fabian who is contesting the Lamborghini Super Trofeo this season, and Martin and Liz Brundle, taking a close interest in the progress of their son ex-ELMS TV commentator (last week) and current LMP1 Ginetta and Blancpain GT Aston pilot for R Motorsport, Alex Brundle.
Lucas Ordonez’s appearance at Silverstone with Motul Team RJN was in some doubt leading up to the weekend with the imminent arrival of the first child for him and his wife Adriana, happily little Jimena arrived in time for family duties to be fulfilled and a very happy Lucas will play a full part in the weekend’s event.
Two weekends, two Audis, two tyre manufacturers
Marcel Fassler was in fine form yesterday and looking forward to the second weekend in succession aboard an Audi R8 LMS, the WEC World Champion and multiple Le Mans winner now a firm part of the Audi Customer Sport squad.
“The big difference form the driving point of view is, perhaps oddly not really the circuit, but the tyres,” Marcel raced last weekend at the Nürburgring 24 Hours on Michelin rubber for BWT Mücke Motorsport, racing here for Audi Club Belgium Team WRT. “The Pirellis take a particular technique, the Michelins are more familiar for me perhaps, and with so many really good drivers here that have had huge mileage with them that can be a disadvantage.”
The weekend has seen splendid weather but Saturday attendance was disappointing, with paddock sources suggesting that the lack of a significant crowd today could see the Silverstone race under threat in future Blancpain GT calendars with significant investment in marketing failing to activate enough of an attendance to justify the outlay.
The crowd size was however, surely hit by both the Royal Wedding and the BTCC meeting at Thruxton?
With glorious sunshine today though, and plenty of track action, attendence appears though to be substantially larger.
Cameron’s Le Mans hopes, Bertolini’s LMP2 driver
At Spirit of Race Duncan Cameron was taking a distant interest in the potential goings on with the final entry list for the Le Mans 24 Hours, his #55 Ferrari now de facto first reserve and invited to the Test Day in two weeks time, but not, it seems for any track running, but only, together with the High Class Racing Dallara (the only other remaining reserve listed car) guaranteed admin checks and scrutineering.
With Cameron’s entry listed for himself, Aaron Scott and Marco Cioci the trio all have very recent Le Mans experience so completing the Test Day laps would not be an essential part of any potential qualification should misfortune strike another entry. Andrea Bertolini meanwhile was happy to tell the DSC ED about the Monza test last week where, astoundingly, he had his very first laps in an LMP car!
“Until now I have only driven Formula cars, including of course a lot of F1 cars, GT1, GT2, GTE and GT3 cars. It was my first ever time in any LMP car.”
That came in the Ligier JS P217 set to be campaigned at Le Mans by Eurasia Motorsport with Bertolini sharing the drive with Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson, the same trio that are contesting a full season of ELMS in the Krohn Racing Ferrari 488 GTE.
The car ran at the Monza test in full low drag configuration and Bertolini was encouraged with his early running. “The car felt very good and I was delighted that when, later in the test, Pipo Derani drove, his lap times were very similar to mine. He is quick in LMP2 cars and has a lot of experience and success in them.”
This weekend marked the first trip to the Silverstone circuit for the Blancpain GT Series since it was resurfaced earlier this year (in January and Februrary) for the first time in over two decades. Parts of it were done at the behest of Moto GP promoter Dorna, Silverstone opting to resurface the entire circuit as a response. The the laptimes are expected to be around a second quicker later this year for the Formula One cars.
So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive up and down the paddock, many drivers noting that it feels substantially different now.
“It’s so much better, there’s some much grip performance. Through Sector 1 especially, there’s so much more traction now,” noted RJN driver Struan Moore. “It’s made a big difference.”
Another driver told DSC that the circuit has made such a huge impact on tyre degredation that: “during a stint, you can do a qualifying lap every lap now.”
Rob Smith’s new drive
2017 Le Mans GTE Am winner Rob Smith bumped into DSC yesterday, and was keen on discussing his 2018 programme with Team Parker in the Pro-Am class racing alongside British GT Champion Seb Morris and Derek Pierce.
“It’s a new challenge for me,” he said. “I worked really hard on an ELMS and Le Mans run with JMW again this year, but it just didn’t work out. Instead though, I’m here in Blancpain, with Team Parker, who are are great bunch to work with, racing the Continental GT3, which is a mega car.
“You know, I thought the Endurance Cup would be a step down from the ELMS, but it really isn’t. It’s so competitive, and I now have a new set of talented gentlemen drivers to try and match. I’m looking forward to the Spa 24 Hours, too, that will be a big one.”
After further dicussions, and the DSC Deputy Editor’s suggestion of running for a “Pro-Am Triple Crown” of wins at Le Mans, Spa and Daytona, Smith was both intrigued and motivated to say the least.
“I hadn’t thought of that you know… I’m well up for that!”