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Suzuka 10 Hours Endurance Race

Le Mans winner Smith amongst Bentley’s Suzuka 10 Hours driver line-up

Le Mans winner Smith amongst Bentley’s Suzuka 10 Hours driver line-up

Bentley has named the six factory drivers that will compete at the inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours on August 23-26 after revealing its 2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge line-up late last week.

The British manufacturer announced its plans to contest a full season of the Intercontinental GT Challenge with its new-for-2018, second-generation Continental GT3 in early November. And it has now confirmed further details about a programme that also includes outings at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, Total 24 Hours of Spa and Mazda Raceway California 8 Hours.

Five of its six drivers – Andy Soucek, Vincent Abril, Maxime Soulet, Steven Kane and Guy Smith – are long-standing ‘Bentley Boys’ who have previously competed for the marque in Europe. While all five helped Bentley Team M-Sport claim this year’s Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup Teams’ championship, Smith’s greatest achievement with the brand came in 2003 when together they won the Le Mans 24 Hours.

They’re joined in the squad by new Bentley recruit Jules Gounon. The 22-year-old Frenchman, son of former F1 driver Jean-Marc, earned his factory call-up by winning both the Total 24 Hours of Spa and ADAC GT Masters title earlier this year.

All six drivers will also represent Bentley Team M-Sport in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup next season.

“Consistency is key for endurance racing so to have five of our drivers back to continue their long-standing relationships with us allows us to get stronger year-on-year and is testament to the loyalty within our team,” said Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush.

“Jules [Gounon] has shown that he has the pace and maturity to fit in to a leading team, despite only being 22 years old, and we’re looking forward to supporting him as he develops his career. We’re all looking forward to arriving in Bathurst in February and getting 2018 underway.”

Bentley is one of seven manufacturers to have confirmed entries for the Japanese event next August. It’s joined at the 47th Summer Endurance Race, which maintains the Suzuka 1000km’s proud heritage, by Honda, Lamborghini, Mercedes-AMG, Nissan, Porsche and Toyota.

Uniquely, Suzuka’s event will see traditional FIA GT3 cars go head-to-head against their JAF GT-spec counterparts on the same control Pirelli tyre as used around the world. Prize money totalling 100-million Yen has already been confirmed for a blue riband race that many more teams and manufacturers are expected to support in the coming months.

The race is being jointly co-ordinated by SRO Motorsports Group – best known for overseeing the Blancpain GT Series in Europe and Asia – SUPER GT organiser GTA, and Mobilityland who are all collaborating closely on the project.

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