Leitzinger Looks To Continue Bentley Success

Butch Leitzinger races the Bentley Continental GT3 for the first time at Road America. [John Wiedemann Photo]

Elkhart Lake, WI – The last time Butch Leitzinger came to Road America with a car he had never raced before, he ended up with a class victory. That same result didn’t happen a couple weekends ago, but the results were very positive as Leitzinger and Dyson Racing debuted the Bentley Continental GT3 in the Pirelli World Challenge.

Following their Road America success comes the next test on the schedule as the Pirelli World Challenge races two rounds in Toronto.

The Bentley team visited Road America in early June for a track test to prepare for the Continental GT3’s first time racing on North American soil. Track time at Road America is hard to come by and Dyson Racing had to work with a competitor to get some laps on the course.

“One of our competitors, Nick Mancuso [R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari], was nice enough to give us some windows of time during their rental of the track,” said Leitzinger. “It wasn’t much time, we probably got two hours total of running. It was enough time for us to get an idea of how the car was but we kind of came in to this weekend pretty blind.”

“We were encouraged because the car was promising,” said Leitzinger. “But we didn’t get to do any experimentation at all. It was like here’s the car, go do some laps and now it’s time to go. The car seems to be really well engineered, very easy to drive, very predictable. You are able to push it and get towards its limit without it kicking back. You don’t have to fight the car all the time. You are able to read it and get up to speed very quickly.”

In 2011, Leitzinger climbed into and raced a LMPC car for the first time ever at an American Le Mans Series race at Road America. Leitzinger qualified the car on pole for it’s class and then he and co-driver Rudy Junco won the LMPC class and finished third overall.

So is it a big deal for Leitzinger to hope in and go racing with a car he has had minimal time behind the wheel?

“It is. There is so much to learn,” said Leitzinger. “Fortunately in 2011, that was another car that was fairly benign, it wasn’t trying to kill you. So you are able to get up to the limits fairly quickly. But it is a necessary thing for drivers to be able to do that and it’s one of the most difficult aspects.”

The Bentley Continental GT3 project has only been in existence for about a year and a half. The first racecar was completed last fall and a sister car to the one raced at Road America this weekend started racing in the United Kingdom in April of this year. Dyson Racing received delivery of their Bentley race car just four weeks ago. But the pressure is on for Dyson Racing. Guy Smith along with Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane won with the team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 in the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Silverstone at the end of May.

Leitzinger may be the perfect driver to debut the Bentley this weekend. In 2001 and 2002 Leitzinger scored class wins at Le Mans with Team Bentley finishing third and fourth overall. Voted the sportscar driver of the decade by On Track Magazine, there may be no better driver than Leitzinger to figure out what a racer car needs to gain speed.

“Where it been good for me to be here is I have a relationship with the team.” says Leitzinger. “When I say something to Peter Weston, our race engineer, or any of the guys, they know what I mean. Having that, Peter has a history with all kinds of different cars and I have a history with different cars. When you go from a prototype to a car of this size, you are up higher and there is more roll to it. In the first three laps, you think when you turn the wheel, you think it’s never going to stop rolling. With my experience, I was able to come in and get things going right away.”

And “get going right away” is what Leitzinger did at Road America.

Leitzinger looked to be running well during the Thursday practice sessions. “Looked” is the key word because timing and scoring could not link to the transponder for the #08 Bentley and practice times were not recorded by the series. Engineers for the team reported that the racecar turned laps in the range of two minutes and eight seconds which would place them within the top four of practice times. Because of the lack of series points and the qualifying session being rained out on Friday, the Dyson team would start the first race at the back of the GT field in nineteenth.

Leitzinger drove the Continental GT3 into sixth place at the finish of race one, making up thirteen positions from his start at the back of the class. The Bentley laid down the second quickest lap of the race which placed them P2 for race two on Saturday.

The start of race two did not go so well for Leitzinger. The inside row freight trained by the Bentley leaving it on the outside entering turn one. Leitzinger recovered quickly and was making up ground when the race was put under caution on the fifth lap. Clean-up of a multicar wreck took nearly half of the race time and Leitzinger was left with twelve minutes to try to chase down the leaders. Again setting the second quickest lap of the race, Leitzinger was able to finish fourth and improve upon the results from the first race.

The timing of the debut of the Continental GT3 coming at Road America seems to have worked out well for Bentley and Dyson Racing.

“Road America is good for us because the car seems to like the higher speed,” commented Leitzinger. “The next race is a street race in Toronto which is much different than here. It is very bumpy, much more stop-start and second gear turns so that will be another part of our learning curve. As encouraged as I am here, it is quite possible that at Toronto I’ll be glum. That’s part of racing and we’ll identify the parts we need to work on and carry on.”

With Leitzinger behind the wheel and Dyson Racing in the pits, the Bentley Continental GT3 looks to carry on very well.

The Pirelli World Challenge visits Canada this weekend, Friday, July 18 through Sunday, July 20, for a doubleheader in Toronto to run rounds nine and ten of the 2014 schedule.

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