Motorsport is integral to the development of the automobile and testing the limits of both man and machine. In the world of motorsport, Pikes Peak is regarded as one of the toughest and also one of the most demanding forms of racing. It is an iconic race in the American motorsport calendar, along with having a huge fan-following. The Pikes Peak international hill climb is actually famous all over the world, and over 100 different competitors come to try their luck and their limits.
Unlike other forms of motorsport, Pikes Peak is not a purpose-built track, and that means it is perhaps the most challenging test for any racing car. Bentley has been a regular at “The Race to the Clouds,” and previously, it won “production car” and “production SUV” records with the Continental GT and Bentayga W12, respectively.
However, this time, the new Continental GT3 Pikes Peak racer would be sipping renewable fuel. Aiming for the Time Attack 1 record, the GT3 Racer will run on bio-fuel-based gasoline and be the first competition, Bentley, to run on renewable fuel. This augurs well with Bentley’s commitment to being the leading sustainable luxury mobility company and offering only BEVs by 2030. The modified Continental GT3 racer will aim to shatter records while devouring the 12.42-mile course.
To attain the new record, the car will have to compete in an arduous, near-5,000 ft climb, including 156 corners, at an average speed of more than 78 mph to cross the finish line in less than nine minutes and 36 seconds. As mentioned earlier, Pikes Peak poses challenges for the racing cars, and here, with the start line at 9,300 ft, the course climbs to 14,100 ft. Do note that the air is 1/3 less dense than at sea level at that point.
To cope with all this, Bentley has modified the Continental GT3 Pikes Peak racer with a new aerodynamics package and overhauling the engine, of course. As a result, it wears the biggest rear wing ever fitted to a Bentley and that too, above a huge rear diffuser that surrounds the transaxle gearbox. This rear aerodynamic package also has a two-plane splitter at the front, which has separate dive planes. It looks incredible with a real sense of focus stemming from its pure racing DNA and is certainly the most radical Bentley ever.
The engine is developed by Bentley’s racing unit, and it takes the 4.0-liter turbo V8 fitted to the Continental GT V8 as its base. It has been modified to run on bio-fuel plus also to perform at such altitudes along with having a shot side-exhaust set-up for a dramatic soundtrack befitting its extreme appearance.
Further modifications include cooling air scoops in place of the rear windows, and the obligatory stopwatch mounted to the roll cage next to the steering wheel to allow Rhys Millen to keep track of his sector times up the mountain. Yes, Bentley will have the same racing driver who helped it get the two previous records.
Bentley is currently testing the car and prepping it for future altitude tests, and readying it ahead of participating in the race on 27 June 2021. This is, by far, the most challenging record that Bentley is aiming for and that too while running the car on renewable fuel. However, this shows that motorsport paves the way for future development of automotive technology and possible solutions. Bentley is also working on bio-fuels and e-fuels along with EVs for its road-car line-up, and this Pikes Peak program will no doubt provide crucial data on the performance of biofuels in an extreme climate.