In Detail: Bentley Continental GT3 Pikes Peak

New e-fuelled Bentley Continental GT3 has a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 with more than 559kW and 1000Nm of torque.

Bentley is readying itself for a run up the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb later this month, with a specially modified version of its Continental GT3 racer designed to run on synthetic fuel, and has confirmed some of the specifications for its new challenger.

The Continental GT3 Pikes Peak for 2021 is powered by a specially tuned version of its twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine, which has a higher compression ratio, a stronger carbon fibre inlet manifold, one-off titanium exhaust manifolds and larger turbos to produce more boost.

The result is “more than 750bhp (559kW)” and an enormous 1000Nm of torque – and Bentley says it plans to turn up the wick even more for the event. The use of renewable synthetic fuel has the potential to slash the car’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85 percent, claims the brand.

The Continental GT3 Pikes Peak is based on a heavily modified version of the road car’s chassis. Aside from the new race livery, the most obvious upgrade is the aerodynamic package, which has been oversized to cope with the thinner air (and therefore less downforce) available near the top of the 4267 metre-high Pikes Peak course.

The massive rear wing is complemented by a two-plane front splitter, a huge rear diffuser and all manner of vents and channels designed to suck turbulent air front underneath the car. The rear windows have also been ditched in favour of vents, which cool a secondary radiator mounted in the boot.

In all, the aero tweaks have increased the car’s downforce by 30 percent at sea level, which roughly correlates to the 33 percent aerodynamic loss the GT will suffer at the top of Pikes Peak, due to the lower air density.

Due to the unique nature of the Pikes Peak course, Bentley has overhauled the car’s chassis, too. Unlike the GT3 track racer, the hillclimb car has significantly less front and rear camber, while the dampers and anti-roll bars have been softened to allow the chassis to cope with the rougher tarmac. The brakes are also now water-cooled.

The Continental GT3 Pikes Peak will enter the Time Attack 1 event on 27 June, which is a class designed for production-based racing machinery. Bentley aims to score a hat-trick with its new racer, hoping to take home a new trophy to sit alongside its current records for the fastest production car and SUV to tackle the 19.99km course.

In 2018, the brand claimed an unofficial record for the fastest production SUV up the climb with the Bentayga. Then, the next year, the Continental GT took the record in the Time Attack 2 class for production cars – a feat the brand marked with a Pikes Peak special edition version of its grand tourer that had a production run of just 15 units.

Bentley has committed to becoming a fully electric brand by 2030, as part of its Beyond100 strategy. But the company will still produce combustion engined cars for the next nine years.

The brand also says that more than 80 percent of all Bentleys ever built are still on the road, and the racer’s use of biofuel signals a wider desire by the company to ensure its current and future combustion engine buyers can continue to enjoy their vehicles long after the brand makes the switch.

Bentley engineering boss 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.”

Luke Wilkinson

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