Two years ago, one of the Netherlands’s most talented race car drivers added victory in the 24 hours of the Nürburgring to his already impressive résumé. Now, Jeroen Bleekemolen has found a new challenge on the Nordschleife: bringing home the win in the twice-around-the-clock challenge for Bentley. It all starts this coming Saturday, in the VLN season opener.
It should be clear by now that Bentley is in it for the win: the British manufacturer came out strong with its debuting Continental GT3 last year, straight away winning races in the highly competitive Blancpain Endurance Series. For 2015, Bentley decided it needed to step up its game even more, supporting to not only M-Sport and Dyson Racing, but German squad HTP Motorsport as well. It won’t be just help on the technical front, HTP has also be given several top-tier racers to complete its line-up for an all-out attack on one of the grand prizes in GT racing: the 24 hours of the Nürburgring. Among the GT stars who will help Bentley achieve victory is Jeroen Bleekemolen, who is no stranger to the outfit from Rheinland-Pfalz.
“For years HTP and I raced against each other, which is how we got to know each other very well,” the 2013 24 hours of the Nürburgring winner says. “Usually we’re each other’s biggest rivals for the win, so this looked like a great collaboration to us.
“[HTP Motorsport] receives a lot of support from Bentley and could make me a good offer. They get to enter a great car for Bentley in the Nürburgring 24 hours race. A good drivers line-up, a team such as HTP, and the Bentley: looks like a very good combination to me.”
The popular racer saw his greatest moment in the Eifel two years ago, when he took the win in the legendary 24 hours, racing the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 of Black Falcon. While the AMG-built SLS is still one of the cars to beat, for Bleekemolen, the switch to another brand is a chance worth taking.
“Of course, I had a couple of great years with the Mercedes SLS—I think it still has one of the best chances to win—but Bentley is going big. They don’t just want to participate: the goal is to win. When a brand like Bentley approaches you for such a project, it’s hard to refuse.”
When the green flag drops at noon this Saturday, it’s not so much a race that starts for HTP Bentley, but more of a test. The same is true for the 33-year-old Bleekemolen, who hasn’t done a lot of laps in the Continental yet.
“I’ve just driven it once, and that was only about 25 laps in Portimão in November, in a car from M-Sport. So I don’t know the car very well yet, but it felt good right away. It’s a very well-built GT3 car.”
“This race is really just a test for us. We don’t aim for results right away. If we have to make extra pit stops to change things to the set-up, we’ll do so.
“On Friday we’ll first test on the Grand Prix course. The real goal is to perform in the 24 hours race. Everything before that is just a test, the VLN races as well.”