“To build a fast car, a good car, the best in its class.” Those were the words of Bentley Founder W.O. Bentley back when he built the first car to bear the Bentley name in London in 1919. While Bentley has always been synonymous with luxury, many may not know that the brand has also had much success in motorsports with five victories at Le Mans in the 1920s with the sixth scored in 2003. For 2016, Bentley is running its largest ever motorsports program with teams racing the brand around the globe. Bentley Motorsport and its customers are contesting in more than 90 top-level GT races around the world this season, as both its works and customer team programs have grown. In North America, Bentley Team Absolute Racing represents the brand racing in the Pirelli World Challenge with the Continental GT3.
Located in Crewe, England, Bentley Motors remains the definitive British luxury car company, crafting some of the world’s most desirable high performance grand tourers. And almost a century later, W.O.’s vision exists in the Bentley Continental GT, the epitome of luxury and sophistication on the street. But in the pursuit of victories on the racetrack the GT3 version of the car, while retaining the sublime beauty of the Continental, has undergone changes to make it race ready. Powered by a 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 engine that generates over 550 HP and that has been repositioned to the rear of the engine bay, the GT3 takes the essence of the iconic Continental GT and pushes it to the limit. More than 1000 kg of weight has been eliminated, by removing the equipment and parts that make the road-going Continental such a luxurious grand tourer. Double glazing, veneer and leather trim, over fifty ECUs and extensive electrical systems are not present in the race version of the GT. The 4.0-litre engine is paired with a six-speed sequential Xtrac gearbox, a double wishbone suspension, four-way adjustable dampers, OZ Racing 18” x 13” rims, and is shod with Pirelli P-Zero slicks to compete in PWC. The race version also features a carbon fibre front splitter, rear wing and body panels as well as lightweight, aerodynamically-optimised bumpers, bonnet, sills and fenders. The GT3 is also fitted with a double-strength FIA-specification roll cage.
Brian Gush, Director of Bentley Motorsport, leads the company’s racing program. He was in charge when the Bentley Speed 8 won at Le Mans in 2003 and under his management the Continental GT3 had a successful first season in 2014, with wins in Europe and North America and a strong debut in Asia. The car debuted mid-season in Pirelli World Challenge with Guy Smith scoring the first ever North American win for the platform in the penultimate race of the season at Miller Motorsports Park.
For 2016 in Pirelli World Challenge, Bentley has partnered with Team Absolute Racing, with Adderly Fong piloting the No. 88 Bentley Continental GT. Fong, behind the wheel of the Continental GT3 was Vice Champion of the 2015 GT Asia series. Thus far this season, Fong sits 8th in the championship and has scored four top 5s including a second at Road America in Round 13 of the championship. As well, Fong secured the pole for Round 12 at Road America. The Continental GT3 is also competing in the FIA Blancpain GT Endurance and Sprint Series the ADAC Series in Germany, and the GT Asia Series. The car also competed at Bathurst 12 Hours and the 24 Hours of Nürburgring.
“Racing with Bentley Team Absolute is quite a special experience, mainly because it consists of a bunch of amazing people,” says Fong. “I went to go racing in Europe in my teens to come up the ranks in Formula races. It was in 2012, when I made my move to return back to Asia to race in sports cars. Through 2012 and 2014 Absolute Racing had run a championship in China and I was a part of this. Through these three years of competing with and against each other, I got to know the core people who made up the group, which we know as Absolute Racing. It was by the end of the 2014 season, that I was looking towards plans for 2015. I had already raced three years having won the championship in 2013 in another platform, it was natural to look what was the next step up for me. So we decided after a long period of time that GT Asia would be my program for 2015 behind the wheel of a Bentley Continental GT3, being the next step up in Asia. We battled hard against our competition and narrowly missed out on the driver’s championship in the last race. It was upon this success, that we we’re entrusted with the responsibility to represent Bentley to expand our program to the Pirelli World Challenge in North America. Racing with these guys, has always been fun, every single minute of it. The core team is French, but since Absolute Racing is such a big team and in so many different championships, there are really a lot of members in the team. Everyone is well trained and doesn’t need to get asked twice to do what they need to do for the team. I see a bunch of guys, who put their heart and soul into what they do. Just the way I do in the car, that’s why when everyone has the same mindset and goals, it becomes a very competitive yet enjoyable environment.”
“Team Bentley Absolute Racing form an important part of Bentley’s Worldwide Motorsport program by racing the Continental GT3 against tough competition in both GT Asia and Pirelli World Challenge Championships, usually contending for podiums in both series showing the strengths of both the car and the team, as well as the drivers to the whole world,” says Gush. “Pirelli World Challenge features some fantastic circuits from all across North America, with some intense racing its clear to see that GT3 racing is going from strength to strength – Combined with the new influence from Stephane Ratel and the SRO I’m more confident than ever that Pirelli World Challenge represents the best platform for Bentley motorsport in North America.”
With its largest push in motorsports in 2016, Bentley continues to refine its pursuit to combine luxury with performance and “build a fast car, a good car, the best in its class.”