Bentley Motors is to undertake a renewable fuels research and development program spearheaded by what it claims is the most extreme road-car-based Bentley in its 101-year history: the Continental GT3 Pikes Peak. Designed and built to compete for the Time Attack 1 record at this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, it will be the first competition Bentley to run on renewable fuel and is part of the company’s plan to offer sustainable fuels to customers around the world.
The modified Continental GT3 will run on biofuel-based gasoline. According to Bentley, various blends of fuels are currently being tested and evaluated, with the company claiming possible greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions of up to 85% over standard fossil fuel.
The OEM’s transformational Beyond100 program is set to see the entire Bentley model range offered with hybrid variants by 2023 ahead of Bentley being BEV-only by 2030. The adoption of renewable fuel signals the start of a long-term ambition for Bentley, initiating a research and development program that aims to offer renewable fuels to its customers in parallel with an ongoing electrification program.
Bentley’s member of the board for engineering, Dr Matthias Rabe, commented, “We are delighted to be returning to Pikes Peak for a third time – now powered by renewable fuel, as the launch project for another new element of our Beyond100 program. Our powertrain engineers are already researching both biofuels and e-fuels for use by our customers alongside our electrification program – with intermediate steps of adopting renewable fuels at the factory in Crewe and for our company fleet. In the meantime, the Continental GT3 Pikes Peak will show that renewable fuels can allow motorsport to continue in a responsible way, and hopefully it will capture the third and final record in our triple crown.”
The Pikes Peak project is being run in conjunction with British Continental GT3 customer team Fastr, which has successfully campaigned cars in time attack competitions across the UK. Technical teams from Bentley and Fastr will work with specialists from M-Sport in Cumbria (which developed the GT3 competition car) to hone the Continental GT3 package, which will be run in Colorado by the same team and with assistance from K-PAX Racing.
To break the record, the car will have to complete the nearly 1,524m climb, which includes 156 corners, at an average speed of more than 125km/h to cross the finish line in less than 9 minutes and 36 seconds. To help achieve this ambitious target, Bentley says it has once again turned to three-times Pikes Peak champion and former ‘King of the Mountain’ Rhys Millen (New Zealand), who holds individual class records. It was with Millen that Bentley captured its two existing Pikes Peak records: the Production SUV record attained in 2018 with a Bentayga W12, and the outright Production Car record scored in 2019 with a Continental GT.
To combat the reduction in downforce due to the thinning atmosphere as the car ascends the Pikes Peak course, the biggest rear wing ever fitted to a Bentley dominates the rear of the car, sitting above a substantial rear diffuser that surrounds the transaxle gearbox. The rear aerodynamic package is balanced by a two-plane splitter at the front, flanked by separate dive planes.
The engine is Bentley’s proven racing power unit, developed from the 4.0-liter turbo V8 fitted to the Continental road car, further modified to account for the use of biofuel and the aforementioned reduction in air density.
The car is now set to undertake a test and development program, based initially in the UK before being shipped to the USA for altitude testing. Bentley says an update on the progress of the car will be issued in May, ahead of the 99th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 27.