EAST Yorkshire racer Guy Smith started his 2014 campaign with a strong performance in the opening round of the Blancpain Endurance Series in Monza, Italy.
With team-mates Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane, Beverley-born Smith piloted the new Bentley Continental GT3 to a respectable eighth place on the car’s series competition debut.
The M-Sport Bentley team had a good weekend, despite having to rebuild Smith’s car overnight ahead of the race after an accident in qualifying as Kane was pushing for the fastest time.
The #7 Bentley started the race from fourth on the grid at the hands of Meyrick, who fought to second place before having to manage tyre wear and oil on the track and so pitting on lap 32 in seventh.
A slow stop caused by a failed wheel nut and pit lane traffic meant Smith rejoined in 15th place.
However, Smith went on a charge and, over the course of his 34-lap stint, he climbed five places while consistently running as one of the fastest cars on the track.
Kane replaced Smith on lap 66, climbing a further two places to ensure a top-ten finish.
Smith said: “It was a tough but satisfying and encouraging weekend.
“After Steven’s crash, we weren’t sure if the car could be repaired, but the Continental GT chassis is extremely strong and the M-Sport Bentley mechanics put in an incredible overnight effort to ensure we could go racing.
“During the race, the car felt good and I was able to move up the field, but we know we can be quicker and so we’ll make some changes for the next race.
“The traffic during the pit stop was frustrating, and lost us at least ten seconds, but I was determined to get us into the top ten.
“Eighth is a good start, but we’ve learned a lot and I’m confident we can build from here over the rest of the season.”
The British round of the championship is next up at Silverstone over the weekend of May 24 and 25.