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Bentley returns to racing with Continental GT3 (2012)

Published: 26 September 2012

Think of Bentley and you might immediately imagine weighty, vaguely sporting luxury cars. Think racing and Bentley, and a 1920’s Blower Bentley pounding around Brooklands might pop into your head. But Bentley is going to try and change that, taking the brand back to the race track with the new Continental GT3 racing car.

Is Bentley really going to race the Continental GT3?

Yes, this isn’t just a toe-in-the-water concept, promises the Crewe-based brand. The Continental GT3 is said to ‘receive the full support of the FIA’, with the plan being to enter competition before the end of the 2013 GT racing season.

It’ll be eligible for several different racing series, up to and including 24-hour endurance events like Le Mans. Bentley has a proud history at the Le Sarthe circuit: its win in 2003 with the Speed 8 LMP1 contender is one of only two punctuations of Audi’s dominance of the race since 2000.

So how has the Bentley Continental GT been made race-ready?

Bentley hasn’t released detailed specifications of the car yet, but as you’ll see, the racing mods are fairly unsubtle. There’s retuned aerodynamics thanks to a monster rear wing and front splitter combo, while the rather lovely side-exit exhausts stop interference with the large rear diffuser.

The whole car has a swollen track and centre-lock wheels with slick tyres, and of course there’s a fully stripped-out interior, roll cage, and racing fuel system. Add in the natty racing livery which accentuates the bulges and slats that have sprouted from the Conti’s once slabby proportions and the GT3 looks every inch the racing stereotype.

Under the skin, the Continental’s four-wheel-drive system has been binned in favour of a rear-drive layout, which in complying with the regulations, should contribute heavily to the car’s lightening programme.

Can I buy my own racing Bentley GT3?

Not now – the car still has to gain full event certification, but as with so many modern supercars like the Ferrari 458 Italia, McLaren MP4-12C and Audi R8, we’d be very surprised if a ‘gentleman racer’ buy-your-own option wasn’t offered eventually.

Until then, you’ll have to settle for the 200mph Bentley Continental GT Speed, unveiled at this week’s Paris motor show. The twin-turbo W12 coupe is debuting exactly ten years since the very first Conti was exhibited at the Paris event – then with a mere 552bhp. You can get that in a BMW saloon these days...

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