Vincent Abril is hoping to be “fighting at the front” this weekend in the new-generation Bentley Continental GT3’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour debut.
Bentley Team M-Sport returns to Mt. Panorama, site of its final race with the first-gen model last year, as the British manufacturer nearly comes full-circle with its new-for-2018 car, which debuted at Monza some ten months ago.
While still seeking the car’s breakthrough first win, the Bentley factory driver believes the lessons learned from its debut season will play to their benefit as they embark on the Intercontinental GT Challenge season-opener.
“Everyone is telling us that we’re bringing the car for the first time, but for us we have a season with it already,” Abril told Sportscar365.
“So we know what we’ve worked on. There are things we’re confident in that we can go into any race weekend more prepared, whether it’s [the] setup or getting used to all of the new parts of the car. We’re fully ready and can’t wait to start.”
Set for his third Bathurst start alongside Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet in the No. 108 entry, Abril said Bentley’s previous track record at Bathurst, where it has contended for victory nearly every year since its debut in 2015, should continue with the new-gen Continental GT3.
“The previous car was good [here], so there’s no reason the new car won’t be good,” he said. “It’s a driver’s track so we all love it.
“Our new Bentley gives us a bit more feeling and a bit more comfort, so on tracks like this it’s what you need.
“But it will be a long race. It won’t just be about one-lap pace; it’s about all of the rest. We just want to have a clean race and a comfortable car helps with that.
“For sure we learned that we can’t win the race early on. It’s just a matter of surviving the first ten hours and then at the end, that’s when you see the contenders.”
Abril said they’ve been able to make gains in “bits and pieces” over the course of the 2018 season.
“Every track we bring the car out, we learn, especially as it’s only been a couple of races [with the new-gen car],” he said.
“We developed the car primarily in Europe so when you go to other race tracks, you have other tarmac, curbs and there’s a lot of things that change from country to country.
“Laguna [Seca] was an interesting one as it was very low-grip, very dusty. We had to adapt because we didn’t have these types of conditions in Europe.
“But I think it worked out pretty well; we were fighting at the front so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be the same here.”