As we know, it’s been more than 80 years since Bentley has raced in the UK with a factory-affiliated works team – a tenuous connection, you might think, but there’s actually plenty of reasons to be buoyant about the winged B’s return.
This May Bank Holiday, the M-Sport developed Bentley Continental GT3s will take to the Silverstone circuit – the home of British motor racing – and fight it out with the best GT cars in the business from the likes of Porsche, Ferrari, McLaren and Audi.
Yes, but Bentley is German-owned these days, you might say. And while the standard road hardware might have influences from its parent company, Volkswagen, the race car is decidedly British.
It’s been engineered by British firm M-Sport – the guys behind the Ford World Rally Team for ages, the squad that developed cars for the likes of Colin McRae and Marcus Gronholm.
The Cumbrian company has managed to remove 1,000kg – yes, one whole tonne of weight – from the road-going Conti to turn it into a competitive race car. I reckon Walter Owen Bentley, an engineer at heart himself, would be proud of that.
Yes, the engine might have German roots, but the Xtrac six-speed gearbox is most definitely engineered and built on our fair isle. Besides, the 608hp 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 sounds like a Spitfire through its short side-exit exhaust pipes. Can you get any more British than that?
This year is the team’s first in competition, so it’s more of a development season to glean as much data as possible. But already results have been positive.
The return to GT motorsport is significant because it’ll improve Bentley’s road cars, too.
Advances on the track – such as supercharging in the company’s very early days – improved its cars on the road, and the experience for customers.
Despite the technical achievements in engineering a 2.3-tonne road car into a competitive racer – removing miles of wiring, over 50 ECUs, heavy leather and wood – one of the most significant things about the return of the marque to racing is the four British Bentley boys that’ll come with it.
Former Le Mans winner with Bentley, Guy Smith, will be joined by Steven Kane, Andy Meyrick and Duncan Tappy, meaning four out of the six drivers across the two cars were born and bread here.
It’ll all come together at Silverstone later this month, when a British brand with a car engineered and built in Britain takes to a British track with a predominantly British driver line-up to battle the best from the rest of the world. We can’t wait.