With three podiums coming from the first three Blancpain GT Series events, the #8 Bentley Continental GT3 is making a stir this season. On paper, it has always been a strong team and driver line-up but, in 2015, things just didn’t come together. Maxime Soulet, the stand-out driver of the Blancpain Sprint Series at the Brands Hatch race, shares his thoughts on what’s changed in 2016.
Within our team at Bentley, nothing and everything has changed, all at once. We have the same engineers, the same pit crew, the same drivers as we had last year (barring the addition of Wolfgang Reip for five of the rounds) but, this season, we’re like a new team.
A lot of people have asked me if it’s our luck that has changed. I’d agree that last year we had some bad luck, but that wasn’t our only issue. On the other hand, it’s not good luck that is making us have success this season, although it has to be said that we’ve had some things go our way.
Psychology plays a huge role in racing. And, that doesn’t just go for the drivers – the whole team can be affected. Positivity and confidence breeds success, and even the slightest self-doubt can destroy a team.
Winning the opening race of the season at Misano was a great confidence boost for myself and Andy (Soucek). And as important as that was for us drivers, it was also a big boost for the team who made the right strategy call to get us in that position.
What that race taught us was that, no matter where you start on the grid, and however big the challenge ahead is, you can still win the race.
That lesson stood us in good stead at Brands Hatch last weekend. Having qualified 24th, rather than find excuses, beat ourselves up or write off the weekend in our heads, we made a plan of attack and stuck to it.
The pit crew knew that they could help us jump as many places in the pitstop as Andy or I could do in each of our 30 minute stints… and they didn’t let us down. Andy climbed us six positions on track and our pit crew Brian and Josh jumped us six places in the stop. We ended the one-hour qualifying race in fifth… 19 positions higher than we started, and in the perfect place to make our podium attack in the main race.
Everyone said I was the stand-out driver of the main race but, just like Brian, Josh and Andy did in the qualifying race, I did exactly what I was told to do: to cleverly make my way through the pack without taking any huge risks.
The route from P24 to podium was well-planned and perfectly executed by the whole team. That’s what a driver means when they say ‘it’s all coming together’. As for the next few races, we just need to qualify higher so we don’t have such a huge challenge on our hands! Needless to say, we didn’t manage to achieve that at Silverstone. But the season is a long one and the progress we have shown so far to consistently get ourselves on the podium is encouraging.
Max Soulet was writing exclusively for Mobil 1 The Grid. For more from Max and Bentley Motorsport, follow Bentley Racing on Twitter (@BentleyRacing).