Le Mans favourite Bentley has unveiled a new GT3-spec concept racer with a view to returning to top-flight sportscar racing over the next couple of years.
Ten years on from the 2002 Paris Motor Show, which witnessed the unveiling of the Continental GT concept that eventually took the world by storm and opened an exciting new chapter in Bentley's history, Bentley is hoping to repeat the same feat with a Continental-based GT3 racer currently being developed by a dedicated motorsport team at the company's factory in Crewe.
Signalling Bentley's return to the racetrack for the first time since its historic sixth Le Mans victory in 2003, the Continental GT3 remains faithful to the company's founding motorsport philosophy of developing racing cars from their road-going counterparts.
“The clear message from our customers is that Bentley belongs on the racetrack, and the Continental GT3 is the realisation of a dream we've had ever since the launch of the Continental GT," Dr Wolfgang Schreiber, the marque's chairman and chief executive, commented, "The new GT Speed is the perfect car for us to develop into a racer, and our work so far has shown huge potential. The Continental GT3 is set to show the world what the Continental GT is capable of in its most extreme form, and establishes a solid foundation for Bentley's long-term motorsport plans.”
The new Continental GT Speed is a refined, luxury grand tourer but which, if the driver demands, has a distinctly hard-edged sporting character. With exceptional levels of instantly accessible performance, the GT Speed, the fastest road-going Bentley ever, is a supercar that can be used every day, whatever the weather and road conditions. The Continental GT3 concept capitalises on the prodigious performance, outstanding high-speed stability and renowned durability of Bentley's iconic coupe, while tailoring its specification for the track with the adoption of a rear-wheel drive chassis in accordance with the regulations, state-of-the-art motorsport hardware and a comprehensive aerodynamic package. The dramatic livery of the car enhances the muscular, sculpted form of the Continental GT Speed while remaining proudly patriotic with the inclusion of Union flags.
Heading the development of the Continental GT3 is Bentley's director of chassis, powertrain and motorsport, Brian Gush, who led the programme that famously saw a brace of Bentley Speed 8 prototype racers take a dominant and dramatic one-two at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2003 With the Continental GT3 concept receiving the full support of the FIA, Bentley is viewing a return to the motorsport arena towards the end of 2013. Equipped for endurance as well as outright speed, the new car will be eligible to race in a range of series and events, up to and including 24-hour marathons. Development of the Continental GT3 will continue over the coming months in the build-up to the start of a test programme in 2013.