Saturday, 28 November 2015

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Bentley’s return to racing driven by Cumbrian firm's experts

One of the biggest names in motoring is making a return to racing – with world-class Cumbrian engineering getting it on-track.

M-Sport Bently photo
M-Sport’s Bentley race team with the sports car

Bentley is fine-tuning its highly-anticipated motorsport comeback with plans plotted by a hi-tech team nestled in a country estate.

Experts at M-Sport are working with the prestige giant to put a cutting-edge new car on some of the world’s fastest and most famous racing circuits.

And there are hopes that success will be the perfect proof of the fast-emerging and potentially lucrative engineering skills earning growing reputation all over the globe – potentially catching the eye of more big businesses.

Motoring insiders say Bentley could have had its pick of firms worldwide when it decided to return to the circuit, but opted to go with M-Sport, based at Dovenby Hall, near Cockermouth.

It was a major gamble for the firm to go with a technical partner unproven on the track, although one which has scored global glory in the rallying world.

But it’s one for which expectations are growing when the new Bentley Continental GT3 racing car competes in the Blancpain GT Endurance Series, which starts at Monza in Italy in April.

That was heightened by an impressive showing at an exhibition race in Abu Dhabi in December, the car’s first competitive run on the track.

Matthew Wilson, son of M-Sport managing director Malcolm, has been leading the firm’s work with Bentley and can’t wait to start competing.

“We’ve had a rigorous testing programme and did our first race in Abu Dhabi.

“It was a 12-hour race and we finished fourth – more than we could have asked for,” he said. “For the car to run for 12 hours without any issues was brilliant. The brief was for the car to simply finish, but to finish so strongly was great.”

Bentley came up with the concept car before turning to M-Sport to design and develop the specialist components needed to make it a racer.

It’s a move that the company has hailed as a coup for Cumbria.

“The approach came completely out of the blue,” said former World Rally Championship driver Matthew.

“Bentley came up, liked what they saw, not just the facilities and engineering staff, but the fact we’ve got a strong track record for dealing with customers day in, day out. That’s a big thing.

“The plan is to compete in the championship with two cars.

“The big task for us is to produce the customers’ cars as well.”

M-Sport is evolving and diversifying beyond its rallying roots – moves the firm is confident the company is sure will pay off for Cumbria.

It has a 10-strong team working on the Bentley project.

“For Bentley coming to us was a bit of an unknown for them. It was a bold move,” Matthew said.

“To get Bentley to come to Cumbria is brilliant for us and the area as a whole. It was a real vote of confidence for us.”

The endurance series starts at Monza and includes a 24-hour race at Spa in Belgium.

The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) launched the GT3 European Championship in 2006 as a spin off from its GT1 World Championship.

The aim was to expand manufacturer involvement in motorsport and to help amateur drivers.

GT3 differs from GT1 by using relatively low-cost engineering and design, as well as using performance balancing and handicap weights to make cars more equal.

Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Ford, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes, Nissan and Porsche have all competed.


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