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Wild Bentley Continental GT3 out to conquer Pikes Peak

Bentley Motors has set two records that still hold in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb: the stock Production SUV record in 2018 with a Bentayga W12 and the stock Production Car record in 2019 with a Continental GT. Now their team is aiming to set a new modified Production Car record in the Time Attack 1 class with their 760-hp Continental GT3 running on renewable fuel. It's the most extreme iteration of a Continental GT -- or any Bentley road car -- ever, and the race to the summit should be thrilling on June 27. This car also sports a wild video game steering wheel that can be used to drive the real car or command a simulator.

The Continental GT3 Pikes Peak racer is now in final preparations for the world's most demanding and famous hill climb competition, having completed three dynamic test sessions and renewable fuel engine development. The Time Attack 1 Division includes modified and specialized production-based two- and four-wheel drive vehicles.

For its assault on Pikes Peak on June 27, the car will roll up to the start line at 9,300 ft and race up the course that climbs to 14,100 ft, where the air is a third less dense than at sea level. This challenging environment required the Continental GT3 Pikes Peak to undergo major modifications to its aerodynamics package, its chassis, and its engine.

To break the Time Attack 1 class record, the car will have to complete the nearly 5,000-ft climb, which includes 156 corners, at an average speed of more than 78 mph to cross the finish line in less than 9 min. 36 sec. Three-time Pikes Peak champion and former "King of the Mountain" Rhys Millen from New Zealand returns to drive, having captured Bentley's two existing Pikes Peak records: the Production SUV record attained in 2018 with a Bentayga W12, and the outright Production Car record (extremely limited modifications) scored in 2019 with a Continental GT.

VIDEO: The Bentley Continental GT captured the fastest Production Car ever record at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2019.

The engine is based on Bentley's race-proven version of its 4.0-L twin-turbo V8 road car engine. It has been thoroughly reworked to generate more than 760 hp and 1,000 Nm at sea level for testing -- and the engine will run even higher power levels for the race itself. New pistons and conrods were installed to turn additional boost pressure (over 2.2 bar) into power, having to handle an increased dynamic pressure ratio. The carbon fiber intake manifold is thicker and reinforced versus the standard component for the same reason. Custom, one-off Inconel exhaust manifolds have been 3D-printed via laser sintering by Akrapovic, which lead to larger turbos paired with external wastegates, venting into very short exhausts and dedicated screamer pipes that exit behind the front wheels.

The engine runs on 98RON Renewable Racing Fuel. The fuel is a dedicated blend of advanced biofuels specifically designed for motorsport and is considered by Bentley engineers to be a technological stepping stone to sustainably created eFuel, with a greenhouse gas reduction of up to 85%.

The high-performance engine places additional demands on the cooling system, and for Pikes Peak the engineering team has developed a secondary cooling system that's installed at the back of the car. Air scoops replace the rear windows and channel air through a secondary radiator that exhausts through ducts in the trunk lid. The system runs via a dedicated secondary water pump.

The car is an eight-speed automatic. The gearbox is Bentley's standard racing unit, already designed to handle the torque loads involved, but the rear driveshaft diameter has been increased to provide additional durability. The gearbox runs a specially formulated lubricant created specifically for the car by Mobil1, who have also supplied high-performance oil for the engine.

The chassis has been set up and tuned to suit the specific nature of the Pikes Pikes course. Both front and rear axles run significantly reduced camber to the standard Continental GT3 setup, focusing the car on low-speed cornering performance. The softest springs and anti-roll bars from Bentley's range have been fitted to allow more movement in the body and to maximize weight transfer for braking. The brakes themselves are water-cooled.

Bentley says the aerodynamic modifications make for a 30% increase in overall downforce at sea level while maintaining the standard car's aerodynamic front-rear balance. The biggest rear wing ever fitted to a Bentley dominates the rear of the car, sitting above a highly efficient rear diffuser that surrounds the transaxle gearbox. To maintain the aerodynamic balance front-to-rear, these devices are paired with a comprehensive front-end aerodynamic package comprising a two-plane front splitter flanked by separate dive planes. The majority of these parts were made with carbon nylon filament using rapid-prototyping additive manufacturing techniques at the Bentley factory in Crewe, England.

The Continental GT3 Pikes Peak racer has an amazing fifth wheel -- the removable steering wheel that can drive the car or a simulator

A unique steering wheel that can be used for both real and virtual motor racing is part of the Bentley Continental GT3 Pikes Peak racecar setup. The Podium Steering Wheel Bentley GT3 was co-developed by Bentley and Fanatec, a leading gaming hardware company. It is made primarily of lightweight carbon fiber and magnesium alloy, and it is the first steering wheel of its kind that will race a real car.

The center of the GT3 steering wheel features a circular digital display that offers the driver vital telemetry and information about their performance.

Exclusive Bentley design details include signature knurling on the rotary encoders. Other key features include a forged carbon display bezel, two 7-way FunkySwitch directional sticks with encoder functionality, a pair of aluminum thumb wheels with optical encoders, and four magnetic paddles -- two for gearshifting and two auxiliaries, based on the design of the Continental GT road car.

VIDEO: Bentley GT3 Steering Wheel by Fanatec.

"This is the most advanced wheel we've ever made, and it will be used in a car which is simply stunning and the definition of cool," said Thomas Jackermeier, CEO of Fanatec parent company Endor AG.

The officially licensed Bentley steering wheel will be offered to racing sim fans as a cross-promotion and will be compatible with Fanatec wheel bases. Learn more about the wheel at bentley.fanatec.com.

NOTE: The current overall speed record for any car ever up Pikes Peak is an incredible 7 min. 57 sec set by Romain Dumas in an all-electric Volkswagen I.D. R in 2018.

Sources: Bentley Motors, Fanatec

Published June 2021

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