Bentley will take on the likes of McLaren, Porsche, Mercedes and Aston Martin in sportscar racing with the new Bentley Continental GT3, which has been unveiled in concept form at the Paris motor show.
After months of speculation, the Crewe-based marque has confirmed that it will officially return to motorsport next year, a decade on from its most recent victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Based on Bentley’s fastest-ever road car, the Continental GT Speed, the GT3 racing version replaces the road-going machine’s all-wheel drive system with a rear-wheel drive layout. It has revised aerodynamics including a carbonfibre front splitter and rear diffuser, as well as a race-spec rear wing to produce extra downforce.
Bentley hasn’t revealed details of the engine’s specification, but a race-tuned version of the GT Speed’s turbocharged W12 seems likely to power the new car.
The Continental GT3 is being developed by a dedicated motorsport team at Crewe under the guidance of Bentley’s director of chassis, powertrain and motorsport, Brian Gush, who was also at the helm of the manufacturer’s successful Le Mans assault.
Development of the Continental GT3 will continue over the winter in the build-up to the start of a test programme in 2013. The official photographs distributed by Bentley indicate that the car has already been shaken down at Anglesey circuit in north Wales.
A full race debut is planned for the latter half of next year. The Continental GT3 will be eligible to race in a range of race series and events, including 24-hour endurance events, although GT3 cars do not currently compete at Le Mans.
Bentley says the Continental GT3 remains faithful to the company’s founding motorsport philosophy of developing racing cars from their road-going counterparts.
According to Wolfgang Schreiber, Bentley’s chairman and chief executive: “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. 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.”
Topline sportscar racing is broken down into four GT categories, with cars classified according to on how close to production specification the machines are. GT3 has proved popular with manufacturers because it provides a platform for them to compete with machines closely related to their roadgoing counterparts but at a realistic cost.