BENTLEY TO MAKE PIKES PEAK RETURN

Late last year, one of Britain's oldest and most iconic motoring brands announced plans to stop building standard internal combustion engines (ICE) and that they would replace them with plug-in hybrids.

Now, there are some brands that would immediately spring to mind companies that would be prepared to lead the charge on that front, but I'd be very much surprised if the name that entered your head was Bentley.

But, that's exactly what they are doing. By 2023 all Bentley models will be available as a plug-in hybrid and seven years later all models will either be plug-in hybrid or electric.

I hear you. What's that got to do with racing?

Well, the British marque has now announced that they will run a Continental GT at the world's most famous hillclimb - Pikes Peak.

Bentley

The Continental GT being used is based on Bentley's race winning Continental GT3, but to prove they are serious about their sustainability project, the car has been modified so it can run on biofuel-based gasoline. It means that the greenhouse gases produced should be 85% less than a standard ICE.

Make no mistake, while this is essentially a PR exercise, Bentley are still throwing all of their resources at the project to ensure they secure the Time Attack 1 record.

As plenty of manufacturers have proven over the years, the 12.42 mile Pikes Peak course isn't easy and it will take some doing to secure the Time Attack record, which currently stands at 9m36.559s which was set by David Donner in 2020 at the wheel of a Porsche GT2 RS Clubsport.

To make sure they claim the record, Bentley has enlisted the help of not one, but three firms. The car is being built in conjunction with Fastr, who have campaigned a Continental GT at various time attack competitions in the past and rally and racing legends M-Sport to make sure every ounce of performance potential is extracted from the car. California-based K-Pax Racing will then help Bentley and Fastr with the running of the car at Pikes Peak.

Bentley

Speaking about the company's plans to run at Pikes Peak, Bentley's Member of the Board for Engineering, Dr Matthias Rabe said: “We are delighted to be returning to Pikes Peak for a third time – now powered by renewable fuel, as the launch project for another new element of our Beyond100 programme.

"Our powertrain engineers are already researching both biofuels and e-fuels for use by our customers alongside our electrification programme – with intermediate steps of adopting renewable fuels at the factory in Crewe and for our company fleet. In the meantime, the Continental GT3 Pikes Peak will show that renewable fuels can allow motorsport to continue in a responsible way, and hopefully it will capture the third and final record in our triple crown.”

But while its all well and good having a strong car, you also need a top driver if you are to stand any chance of breaking records. Once again, Bentley has gone for quality, re-hiring three-time Pikes Peak champion, Rhys Millen who secured Bentley's two previous records - the Production SUV record in 2018 using a Betayga W12 and the outright Production Car record in 2019 with a Continental GT.

Bentley

Let's be honest, with the money being thrown at this project, Bentley has to break the record. Achieving anything less will be a huge disappointment and could lead board members and shareholders of the brand to question whether the firm can succeed in its road division targets of removing all ICE engines by 2030.

It's a lot of pressure, but one that Bentley will most likely relish and with the likes of Millen at the wheel and M-Sport providing technical support, they have all the right ingredients to make it a success. And if they manage it, well then they are well on course to honour their promise of being the industry leaders in sustainability.

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