Cheshire's Andy Meyrick drove a series of impeccable stints to help ensure a solid finish for the Bentley Continental GT3 in Bentley's first return to 24-hour racing since winning Le Mans in 2003. Andy, Guy Smith and Steven Kane had a difficult race but managed to overcome bad luck to cross the line ninth in the class and 13th overall as the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium drew to a close.
With the #7 Continental GT3 starting sixth on the grid, it was Andy's team mate Guy Smith that began the race. High track temperatures caused tricky handling early on, and Andy started his first stint in P16. When the first of many safety car periods started on lap 39, Andy had climbed two places to P14, but at that point bad luck struck for the first time. A piece of debris from the crash that brought out the safety car damaged a brake line on the Bentley, and Andy had to pit to have it replaced. The mechanics worked furiously but the car lost three laps to the leaders, and emerged from the stop in P50.
The fight back began immediately. After stints from Steven and Guy, including a red-flag interruption of an hour, Andy started his second stint in the car in P36, and in the space of an hour climbed six places to P30. His third stint was a two-hour long double stint and saw the same level of skill and commitment, first moving another six places up the order from P22 to P16 in the first hour and then taking P15 before pitting and handing the car to Steven. Andy's pace was rewarded with a championship point for sitting P9 in class at the 12-hour mark.
The second half of the race saw more mixed fortunes. The Continental GT3 was one of the quickest cars on the track, and the trio of drivers continued to make great progress as the car's record of reliability was maintained. After reaching P11, two cars ahead of Steven Kane collided and the resulting debris hit and damaged the front splitter of the #7 Continental GT3. The ensuing understeer was dramatically blunting the car's performance, and so repairing the damage was vital. The pit stop to fix the issue took six minutes, dropping the car back to P13. Andy took the wheel and moved the car back up to P11 during his stint, only for the team's good work to be undone by a slow puncture during Steve's penultimate stint that meant that P13 would been their final position.
Andy, however, was pleased with the result:
"I think that we've done well. This is a new team, racing a new car, against long-established competitors, and for Bentley to enter what's probably the toughest 24 hour race in the world after 11 years away and finish with both cars in the top 20 is fantastic. It's true that we were hoping for a better result, but none of the issues we had were our fault - racing over such a long distance involves a large element of lottery, and we've been unlucky this weekend. There were so many crashes during the race and it was the debris from those that caused all of our problems. After adjusting our tyre pressures early on, the car was mega, and we were all able to push hard to make a solid comeback. I'm already looking forward to the next time we get to run a 24-hour race - for me, they're the pinnacle of motor racing."
Andy's next race with M-Sport Bentley is the last round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at the Nürburgring in Germany on 21st September, where he will be looking for a strong end to his season as a top-three place in the drivers' championship standings is achievable. Before then, Andy returns to the U.S.A. to race the DeltaWing in the next round of the Tudor United Sports Car Championship: the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America.