It’s been a busy month in California for Bentley Motors, beginning with the second to last race of the season at Sonoma Raceway. The company had many customers as guests and two cars on the track for rounds 18 and 19 of the Pirelli World Challenge. Bentley rolled out the red carpet for customers and set up a hospitality tent where customers were able to view previews of the new Bentayga along with the models from Bentley’s lineup.
Here was Bentley Beverly Hills’ setup for how they brought their customers to the race.
Yours truly was there with Mrs. The Pursuit to take in the action. While Bentley’s guests had a great time, the race didn’t go as expected for Bentley Team Dyson Racing. As they have done this season, the Dyson Racing Bentley’s qualified well.
Both cars fared well during the first race of the weekend. At the end, Smith earned ninth and Dyson earned 12th. Fastest lap time on Saturday determined the starting position for Sunday, meaning the two Bentleys started 12th and 13th in a very competitive and close field.
Sunday’s activities included the final event for Indycar and Sonoma Raceway was packed with fans. It was a great environment to watch a race in. (More about that later.)
The race began with a decent start from both Bentley’s. This is something they haven’t been able to with a lot of consistency this season. As the field came up the hill into turn 2, Mike Skeen spun. With the 600 horsepower cars packed tightly, there was no where to go and there were collisions.
It looked like Guy Smith’s Continental GT3 had some contact with other cars but he was able to find his way through in ninth position. Chris Dyson wasn’t so lucky. The #16 Bentley Continental GT3 hit Skeen pretty hard. The impact left a large dent in the front of the #16 Bentley and broke a key support piece for Dyson’s front splitter.
The damage to the aero on Dyson’s car was too significant and couldn’t be repaired in the pits, and so he had to withdraw from the race. A total of four cars were eliminated due to the incident.
“I got an excellent start and passed two cars before the first corner,” Dyson said. “But at Turn 2 Mike Skeen spun. All I could do was get slowed down as much as I could and hope for the best. I thought I was okay, but the splitter was dragging so I had to pit. It’s really too bad because I thought we were going to have a good race.”
Smith continued on, but not without adversity. The #20 Continental GT3 moved up through the field picking off a Cadillac ATS-V and a Mercedes SLS while putting down some very impressive lap times.
“Our cars get stronger as the race goes on and the tires get up to good operating temperature,” Smith noted following the race.
As Smith closed in on sixth position, he caught a bad break as his front left tire began to lose pressure. “I pitted for a new tire, and as I was leaving the pits the light came on for the left-rear! I guess the same piece of debris that cut the front tire got the rear one as well,” he said.
Smith rejoined the field in 12th and wouldn’t gain another position as he nursed his failing rear tire. “It was a lot of work for a 12th-place finish,” he said. “It’s a pity, because the Bentley was quite strong.”
Bentley Team Dyson Racing was back in action this past weekend, September 13, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the final event in the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge season. A single race weekend, hopes were high to finish the season on a high note.
Speaking before the weekend, Team founder and CEO Rob Dyson said, “It would be great to add a win in Monterey to the win Chris scored at Road America earlier this year.”
Disappointingly, the team didn’t have the best weekend. Guy Smith qualified 10th, but Chris Dyson damaged his car when he left the course in turn 5 during qualifying. He would start in 24th place. Smith finished 17th, with Dyson immediately following him in 18th.
Bentley ends it’s first full season in the Pirelli World Challenge in sixth place in the Manufacturer’s Championship. Chris Dyson finishes 8th in the Driver’s Championship. Teammates Butch Leitzinger and Guy Smith, who shared a car this season, finished 18th and 31st.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Gallery:
Source: Dyson Racing, Pirelli World Challenge