Bentley will attack Pikes Peak with a heavily modified Continental GT3 racer
Bentley will return to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in a heavily-modified Continental GT3 race car, campaigned by customer team Fastr and driven by Pikes Peak veteran Rhys Millen. After a one-year absence, the Flying “B” will bid for the its third record on the Colorado hill in as many factory-backed attempts. The luxury brand’s race to the heavens is on.
Bentley’s Pikes Peak Continental is based off its championship-winning GT3 road racer. Under the hood is a modified 4.0-liter turbo V-8—the same engine found in Bentley’s Continental GT V8 production car. Though Bentley has been tight-lipped about the tech specs, it’s worth noting that in GT3 competition, the Continental engine puts down more than 550 horsepower affixed to a six-speed sequential gearbox, and the car weighs less than 2900 pounds.
Labeled by the marque as, “the most extreme road-car-based car in its 101-year history,” the Continental features a flamboyant aero package of louvers, splitters, diffusers, and the “biggest wing ever fitted to a Bentley.”
Fastr, the customer team responsible for this beast, is based out of England. Ahead of the hill climb, the Continental will be shipped stateside for altitude testing. For a race that starts at 9300 feet above seas level and finishes at 14,100, this is an important part of the developmental process. Tuning an internal combustion engine to perform where air is a third-less dense than sea level is a feat in itself.
The thin air is also why electric cars have dominated Pikes Peak since 2014. EV powerplants are largely unaffected by the thin air and varying temperatures experienced during ascent. That said, you’d expect Bentley to field an all-electric race car, or even a hybrid, at Pikes Peak given it just decreed that its entire lineup would have hybrid capabilities by 2023 and become completely electric by 2030. Au contraire. The Pikes Peak Continental racer will run on biofuel-based gasoline, as a part of Bentley’s newest sustainability initiative.
Why gas? Bentley says that more than 80 percent of all its vehicles ever built are still on the road. It wants to develop a sustainable biofuel that can power customers’ relics in addition to Bentley’s internal combustion production cars for the next nine years. In Bentley’s lab, “various blends of fuels are currently being tested and evaluated, with possible greenhouse gas reductions of up to 85 percent over standard fossil fuel.” Back at the mountain, spectators will be treated to a V-8 symphony trumpeted from side-exit exhaust, and Bentley can label it a “sustainability initiative.” Win, win.
The annual assault on the 14,000-foot-tall mountain is divided into numerous classes for two- and four-wheeled vehicles, ranging from Unlimited, to Vintage Car, to Sidecar. Rhys Millen, a mountain regular for more than a decade, has set multiple records in many of the four-wheeled classes, including overall victory in 2012 and ’15. “I’m excited to drive the GT3 with Fastr and Bentley,” Millen says. “While this is not the fastest car I’ve driven on the mountain, it will be (by far) the fastest car I’ve driven in this class, thanks to ABS and traction control.”
This year, Bentley and Millen will take aim at Time Attack 1, and the current time to beat of 9:36 set by David Donner last year in a 2019 Porsche GT2 RS Clubsport. Of course, Bentley isn’t a newbie to the scene either, having already claimed two class records (with Millen at the wheel) in its previous two factory-backed efforts, winning fastest Production SUV in 2018 with a 2018 Bentley Bentayga, and Time Attack 2 with a stock-looking Bentley Continental GT.
“The team has put in a lot of effort so far,” Millen says, “and I hope that I can equal their talents from the driver seat.” We’re eager to watch the winged Continental GT3 streak up the mountain on June 27.