Bentley Continental GT3 ready for Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak, known as ‘The Race to the Clouds', is not an event to be taken lightly. And that's why renowned British carmaker Bentley has prepared a special version of the Continental GT to confront this unique challenge, designed specifically for the world's most famous hillclimb race, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains close to Colorado Springs in the United States.
It's all about length and altitude: there are 156 corners in total over an elevation change of 1438 metres, taking in a route of just under 20 kilometres. The start line is at 2862 metres and the course finishes on the roof of the world at 4300 metres. In the past, the event was purely gravel, but over the years it has been progressively asphalted up to 2012, when it became all-asphalt for the very first time.
The famed Continental GT didn't take part in the competition last year, but in 2019 it set a production car record, setting a time of 10m18.488s over the course. Bentley returns to Colorado on June 27 in an attempt to do even better with the GT3, which this year has an extra element of interest thanks to its use of renewable fuel, which could reduce greenhouse gases by up to 85 per cent compared to standard fuel. A special steering wheel has been developed by Bentley and Fanatec, world leaders in gaming hardware. The first steering wheel of its kind to have actually raced in a car can be used also for virtual motor racing.
P Zero tyres ready to deliver grip when needed
For such as specific and selective event, a special tyre is needed: namely the Pirelli P Zero Hillclimb Supersoft slick tyre, in 325/705-18 size. These tyres are specifically designed by Pirelli for hillclimb events, offering instant performance and a rapid warm-up thanks to the bespoke tyre compound and structure. This comes directly from Pirelli's experience in motorsport, particularly from GT3 racing.
These are tyres that are developed for extreme cornering and a wide variety of surfaces, with the accent firmly on safety and control. The association between Pirelli and Bentley at Pikes Peak goes back in time: P Zero tyres were seen on the Bentley Continental GT that set the production car record last year, as well as the Bentley Bentayga that won the SUV category the year before.
Bentley's ‘Beyond 100' strategy aims to offer hybrid versions of the entire range by 2023, before moving to a fully-electric line-up by 2030. Bentley's Matthias Rabe, a board member for engineering, commented: “It's a new element of the programme. Our engineers are carrying out research into biofuel and e-fuels, as well as following our electrification strategy. In the meantime, the GT3 is set to demonstrate how motorsport can carry on in a responsible way.”
The king of the mountain
The Continental GT3 will use a tuned version of the racing engine, which in turn is derived from the 4.0-litre V8 turbo found in the Continental GT V8. And it's set to go just as fast as it looks, thanks to a special livery and also an aggressive cooling package and aerodynamics, in particular the enormous rear wing.The man behind the wheel is just as impressive: three-time Pikes Peak winner Rhys Millen from New Zealand, who is known as the ‘king of the mountain'. He was at the wheel of the Bentayga W12 in 2018, and also the Continental that set the production record in 2019. He'll be aiming to improve this year – but the overall record still stands at 7m57.148s, set by Romain Dumas in the Volkswagen ID.R prototype two years ago.