You’ve heard of Bentley right? The car company known for British precision, has a long pedigree in auto manufacturing, and is a producer of racing cars? Racing cars, when was that? You have to look back to 2003 when two Bentley Speed 8 prototype racers came in first and second at Le Mans. Well to paraphrase that pseudo-Britisher Austin Powers, “They’re back, baby!”
Or to be more specific, Bentley is returning to the motorsport arena with their Continental GT3 concept racer – a racing car that shows what their Continental GT Speed is capable of in the extreme.
Even better, Bentley’s philosophy is that of developing racing cars from their road-going counterparts. This means that it will eventually be available for anyone to buy. Repeating that: Bentley is making a racing car that anyone can buy… but not if you have to ask how much.
Bentley debuted the Continental GT3 concept racer to a select crowd, that included ESPN sports anchors and celebrities, at the Smashbox Studios in West Hollywood last night. To say the car is gorgeously sleek and contoured is to understate, and the sexy curves bespeak the promise of speed, speed, and more speed.
I was able to get up close and personal to this racing machine, something I would not have been able to do later this week as part of the crowd viewing it at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It is unusual for a concept racer to be shown in such a venue — but here I am, standing close enough to touch but wishing I was inside, grasping the wheel, gunning the engine, and seeing what a rear-wheel drive chassis can bring about in a racer designed for endurance as well as outright speed.
How can it not, since if you look at the GT Speed version, which is their street vehicle for the public, you’re getting 616 bhp (625 PS / 460 kW) at 6000 rev/min with 800 Nm (590 lb.ft) of torque available from 2000 to 5000 rev/min. And the GT Speed dispatches the zero-to-sixty sprint in 4.0 seconds (0-100 km/h in 4.2s), reaching 100 mph (160 km/h) from a standing start in just 9.0 seconds.
But since Brian Gush, Bentley‘s Director of Chassis, Powertrain and Motorsport, won’t let me open the door, he can at least tell me what he finds interesting about the concept racer.
“The most interesting thing to me,” says Gush, “is that it’s still totally recognizable as a Continental GT. So you look at it — it’s an out and out racer — but the spectator will see it immediately and recognize it as a GT. That’s really important for us. And it’s using the road car as a basis for the race car, which is what Bentley did in those early years.”
Gush notes that Bentley is entering a totally different class: “In 2003 we were in the prototype class — this was a prototype built from carbon fiber using out and out race components,” he says. “This car conforms to the GT3 regulations which is that it has got to be a road-based car but one that is free to move the mechanicals around. The cars in the GT3 category are more equal in performance so it makes for close racing and this is the most popular category of racing, second only to Formula One in terms of its global footprint.”
When asked how fast the Continental G3 concept racer can go, Rush points out that it is still in development and questions about “speed” and “fast” won’t be answered until well into the third quarter of 2013. But when pressed again, “just faster than all of the competition,” is his reply.
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture. Visit his website.
Laugh your ass off with The 5 Sleaziest Car Mods (And What They Say About You) or pick up speed with The Fastest Cars on Earth.