It’s a curious fact that one of the current leaders of the 2017 Blancpain Endurance Series had never previously taken an endurance race podium. That was up until last weekend, when Vince Abril and his Bentley Racing team won the Paul Ricard 1,000 kms. Writing exclusively for Mobil 1 The Grid, the young Frenchman explains the elation of finally standing on the podium, and why winning has only made him more ready for further endurance series success.
After I won the 2015 Blancpain Sprint Series in the Bentley Continental GT3, the call-up came from the boss of Bentley Motorsport, Brian Gush, who offered me a seat in the team as a works driver. I was 20 years old and about to become the youngest ever Bentley Boy. My life was that of every boy’s dream; racing around the world for one of the top GT teams and representing a world-leading luxury manufacturer but, until last weekend, I had a monkey on my back.
Despite winning multiple championship races and taking podiums in Sprint Series alongside Steven Kane, I’d never taken an endurance series race podium, let alone a win. Now, to put this in perspective, I’ve only actually contested eight races in the Endurance Series with a competitive package. But, nonetheless, the desire to get a win built with each one.
With the desire to win comes a pressure. It builds up, and you can either channel this positively or you can let it get too much, in which case, you’ll never succeed. I decided it was time to get that monkey off my back and, on Saturday, all of the elements came together and we won the Paul Ricard 1,000 kms. I had shaken him off for good.
Taking the win felt incredible. It was a near perfect race, which made it even sweeter. In endurance racing, there is only so much you can do to control your destiny. The rest is up to luck. Bentley Team M-Sport gave me everything I needed to win – a perfect car, the best pit crew in the paddock and two awesome team-mates in Andy Soucek and Max Soulet – the rest just had to fall into place… and it did.
After the elation comes the relief. Someone asked me in the post-race press conference: “How does it feel to get your first endurance podium?” and my answer was, “Like I’m ready to do it again at the next one.” I was then reminded that the next one is the 24 Hours of Spa, possibly the toughest endurance race in the world!
That doesn’t phase me, though. I’m ready to approach it knowing that we can do it. Once you have done it, you approach it totally differently. Will we win 24 Hours of Spa? Who knows?! Do I know we are capable of winning it? 100%.