Pikes Peak Bentley Continental GT3 revealed

Pikes Peak Bentley Continental GT3 revealed


Massive power, downforce and even E-fuel for astonishing Time Attack GT3 racer

By Sam Sheehan / Monday, April 12, 2021 / Loading comments

Bentley has revealed the comprehensively upgraded Continental GT3 car it and customer team Fastr will enter into this year’s Pikes Peak International Hillclimb in a bid for class honours – and it’s every bit as extreme as we’d hoped. Using Fastr’s already proven GT3 machine as a base, the Pikes Peak sprint car has been adapted to the unique atmospheric conditions of the Rocky Mountains, where combustion engines lose around 40 per cent of power at the 4,302-metre summit, and downforce is similarly reduced. The answer? Lots and lots of both. And E-fuels, apparently…

Since this is a proper competition machine with rivals to worry about, Bentley and Worcestershire-based Fastr aren’t revealing the exact numbers at this stage. But given that the 2019 Time Attack 1 class winning twin-turbo 911 GT3 R had 900hp, it wouldn’t be overly optimistic to suggest a power output nudging four figures from the blown 4.0-litre V8 Conti. As for the downforce, we probably don’t need to get the tape measure out to take a big increase on the 1,000kg produced by a standard Continental GT3 racer for granted. Because, well, just look at it. There ought to be enough to keep driver and former Pikes Peak winner, Rhys Millen, working hard all the way up the 156-corner course.

There are two front splitters with dive plane ends, making the car considerably wider and more menacing. The floor is flat and at the rear, the two-part wing is big enough for you to eat a family picnic off. Note the rake of the car, which angles all of the surfaces, including those extended skirts, into the air so as to generate downforce.  And no doubt you’ll have spotted the rear diffuser, with its enormous slats and two wide-mouthed sections, there to help suck air out from under the car and further increase peak downforce as a result. Pleasingly, the car does still look like a Continental GT, albeit one with a protein addiction. Predictably, it makes for the most extreme road car-based Bentley yet.

Certainly there are sufficient steroidal things going on for us to hazard a guess that this is a car likely to join that illustrious bunch of racers that can drive on the ceiling of a tunnel. Bentley’s factory built GT3 racer is 1.3 tonnes (making it almost 900kg lighter than the road car), so even allowing for a potential weight increase for the Time Attack car thanks to that extra bodywork, there’s wriggle room in the physics. Or at least there is at sea level. It’ll be a different matter when it comes to the Pikes Peak start line, which is 2,743 metres up, where atmospheric pressure is already 29 per cent down. Knowing that, Fastr’s machine gets breathing mods to ensure the competition V8 remains unstrangled at altitude. 

Bentley’s machine – which, interestingly, has also been co-developed by rallying expert M-Sport – will also run on biofuel, marking the first time a competition car has done so, with Porsche (the industry’s most vocal E-fuel supporter) not having actually put its new synthetic fuels into racing use yet. Neither Fastr nor Bentley make any claims for greater performance with the more environmentally friendly option, but Crewe does highlight the advantages when it comes to CO2 reduction, with as much as 85 per cent less greenhouse gas emitted at the tailpipes. Obviously, this is more than a bid to cut the environmental impact of a hillclimb effort, but rather a statement of possible future ambitions.

In the run up to the 99th Pikes Peak Hillclimb on the June 27, Fastr will test the Time Attack GT3 in the UK before sending it Stateside, hopefully in a race-winning configuration. The time to beat is 9 minutes 36 seconds, set by the aforementioned Porsche, but Bentley is quietly confident. Not least because its driver, Millen, was the man who took its Bentayga and road-spec Continental GT to class wins in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Giving Fastr a helping hand in its Pikes Peak assault will be fellow Bentley partner and US-based team K-PAX Racing. Suffice to say, this upgraded Conti isn’t there to make up the numbers. Success would mean a fitting way for Bentley to bow out of its trio of consecutive Pikes Peak runs. And a nice signal of intent for its continued interest in going fast…

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