Barwell Cadena: Heroic 13 Laps Captures Fourth For Bentwood

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Manchester-based professional racing driver, Michael Bentwood had a successful weekend at Spa, narrowly missing out on a podium place in a hard fought 2.5 hour Avon Tyres British GT Championship race.

Bentwood went into the weekend on a high, having recently been invited to race as part of a team in the Sepang 12-hour race in Malaysia this summer. The fresh recognition of Bentwood’s position as one of the most successful drivers of the Aston Martin DBRS9 in the world, was a welcome boost to an already promising season.

Qualifying didn’t go exactly to plan with Bentwood’s best flying lap ruined by a slower car through Blanchimont, adding 1.5 seconds to a time which would have been enough for third. Ending up fifth, the team elected to send Bentwood out first, planning to run the longest possible stint on the available fuel before handing over to his Barwell-Cadena teammate Paul Whight. Bentwood’s qualifying issue was soon forgotten as the Aston Martin specialist nailed his rolling start, instantly catapulting him up two places. Bentwood nearly captured second, but factory Porsche driver, Richard Westbrook just held the place and Bentwood settled into third place.

Bentwood and the other pros at the sharp end of the British GT grid jostled for position in the opening laps and then the Ferrari of Matt Griffin overtook, both the Aston Martin and the Porsche of Westbrook. The mid-engined car was managing its tyres better in the very hot conditions than either the rear-engined Porsche or the front-engined DBRS9. After an hour of racing and with the fuel tank rapidly emptying, Benwood pitted the 6.0 litre V12 GT3 race machine and handed over to Paul Whight. The stop cost the pair third place, but Whight’s determination and skill kept the impact of the stop to a minimum as he rejoined the fray.

Whight’s stint was blighted by traffic, with the Belcar GT series also being on track with the British cars and this meant there were 64 cars on the circuit. After being caught up in traffic several times, Whight was caught by one of the Porsches and eventually passed after getting unlucky with back markers. Shortly afterwards the Porsche was similarly impeded and Whight took his chance to pass the Porsche in the drag up the straight. Unfortunately his move coincided with a Safety Car period and he crossed the line 3/100ths of a second behind the Porsche. This meant that Whight had infringed by passing under yellow flags, but only by the narrowest of margins. Unperturbed, Whight continued his stint and then selflessly handed over to Bentwood as early as possible to gain the maximum performance in the latter stages.

Bentwood’s stint was interrupted by a drive through penalty, earned for the safety car infringement during Whight’s drive, which effectively put aside any chances of a podium finish. Bentwood emerged fourth and 52 seconds down on the rival Porsche and with just 13 laps remaining. Never one to shy away from a challenge, the ex-F3000 driver gave absolutely everything to pull back the deficit. In one two lap session, Bentwood managed to pull back an astonishing 10 seconds from the Porsche, giving hope that the impossible task was achievable. Unfortunately the traffic which had already caused big problems during the race, reared its head again, taking its toll on Bentwood’s lap time. Without the traffic issues, the former touring car ace would have been able to get onto the podium, to crown a day of highs and lows.

Despite the setbacks Bentwood was delighted with the work of his teammate and the Barwell-Cadena team, commenting: “Paul did a fantastic job out there today, he really pushed himself and coped with the traffic well. It was a difficult situation with the drive through penalty and it seems harsh, but Paul can take heart from winning the driver of the day trophy. It was great to be back at Spa again, it is a dream circuit to drive around and those final 13 laps was incredibly intense. I think I showed what we as a team are capable of and without the traffic we would have been on the podium no problem at all. Barwell Cadena were fantastic today, the pit stops were ultra-slick and that really made it easier for me. I am really looking forward to Sepang now!”

Bentwood is back in action at the Sepang 12-hour race in Malaysia on the 5th August where he will again be piloting a GT3 specification Aston Martin DBRS9.
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