Debut podium for Bentley Boy Pepper
Three weeks ago, Midrand race driver Jordan Pepper did not even know he would be racing as one of the Bentley Boys in the factory team’s new Continental GT3 at the Blancpain GT Series Paul Ricard 1000 endurance race. Come Saturday evening and Pepper was standing on the French Riviera racetrack’s podium to collect the silverware after taking second overall in an epic debut performance.
“It is such an honour to be a Factory Driver and to do that with a podium for Bentley Team M-Sport in the Blancpain GT Series is a dream come true,” a delighted Jordan explained after a storming drive into the night. “It was a pretty challenging weekend though — the call to race only came 3 weeks ago, so there really wasn’t much time to prepare, but I was ready for such a chance and really felt good when I got the call-up.
“That also meant that everything was in the unknown going into the weekend — I did not know the new car, I was part of a completely new driver pairing and I had never been to Paul Ricard before! “But I felt with the hard work M-Sport and Bentley had put in, we stood a pretty good chance of scoring some good points if I could get up to speed fast enough.
“I had expected Friday to be a challenge, but I was able to turn it around Saturday and then qualifying was tricky as we all made small mistakes on our hot laps, which cost us a top-ten grid position. “Still, 18th was still quite respectable in such a tough series.
“Because I was stepping into Guy Smith’s shoes, it meant that it was my job to start the race — something Guy had done to great effect in the past and while the risk was higher, I felt ready for the challenge in my first race for the Factory. “It was quite clear what I had to do for the first half of my first stint — no contact and be as smooth as possible on the tyres, but once I was into a rhythm we really found some great pace and I was picking the cars ahead off one by one.
“Then the team pulled off an incredible pit stop and I was able to work my way to P4 by the end of my two-hour double stint, which really was a dream start for me in the new team. “From there, the race really turned out well for us — we found ourselves in the lead with 30 minutes to go, but we unfortunately picked up a small issue when the bonnet came loose on the last lap and that cost us the race win!
“All things considered, I’m over the moon with this result — my first ever Blancpain podium on my debut for the Factory Bentley M-Sport Team is a dream come true,” Jordan concluded. “The big one — the Spa 24-hour is up next and the goal has to go one better there — there’s lots of time to improve the car, so we have a lot of hard work from now until then but I think we will be ready and come out fighting at the biggest GT race of the year. — bring it on!”