Heading into Madgwick, there’s a sheen of rain on the Bacalar’s windscreen and conditions are definitely wet rather than merely damp. Goodwood’s first corner is a place of frequent high-speed heroism, although rarely in pre-production one-offs. The sodden conditions have already brought to mind Kenny Bräck’s opposite-lock heroics here in a Ford GT40 at the 2013 Revival in similar conditions, but even Bräck didn’t get to see such an unlikely speedometer number: the Bacalar’s digital instrument pack reports that the car is doing a bracing 170mph well before the first apex.
It’s not, of course. The instruments are playing a video loop vastly more exciting than the reality of this respectful rumble through the rain in a roofless seven-figure prototype. This Bacalar was built to be on a motor show stand rather than a race track, to introduce the idea of a Mulliner-built limited-run roadster, not to demonstrate what the finished car will be capable of. The three gauges in the centre of the dashboard are non-functional, needles pointing straight up. When I get into the car, my instinctive attempt to adjust the temperature is also in vain: the rotary controllers don’t do anything. Similarly, the windows don’t go up and the seatbelts are merely decorative. At least the wipers work.
So it’s not representative of the finished car and certainly not able to demonstrate Bentley’s claims that the Bacalar will be the fastest open-topped road car in its history. Yet it is a fascinating insight into the company’s view of the future of ultra-luxury: a return to the coachbuilding of an earlier era.
Beneath its radical exterior, the Bacalar is effectively a Continental GT convertible, sharing that car’s substructure and W12 powertrain. All external bodywork has been changed, with a combination of carbonfibre and aluminium panels, and Bentley has decided to swallow the considerable cost of creating bespoke light units rather than try to adopt those of the base car. The company had no difficulty selling out the limited run of 12 cars before the car had even been announced, despite a £1.8 million price (after taxes) that makes it more than 10 times as expensive than the car on which it is based.
Even under grey skies, the Bacalar looks stunning. Bentley’s head of colour and trim, Maria Mulder, is on hand to talk me around the car. She says the company normally uses the outside viewing garden of the Seat studio in Barcelona to sign-off on paint finishes and make sure they will work in brighter climates – Crewe can be a bit gloomy, apparently – but the show car’s Yellow Flame hue looks stunning in the drizzle. It contains ash made from rice husks for an ethically homologated metallic effect, and up close it looks almost like a flowing liquid.