Today, there is nothing better than a helicopter to get to Le Mans for the 24-hour race. But if you have style, you travel to the Sarthe on your own. That's what racing fans did when the helicopter wasn't invented. And so they still do it today, especially if they come from England. The fleets of Ferrari, Rolls-Royce or Bentley on the camping meadows around the race track show that the cars cannot be expensive enough for this adventure.
When the next edition of the long-distance classic starts in June, a few new cars from Crewe are likely to mix into the crowd in the French province. Because especially for the fans of the FIA endurance championship Bentley now launched the Continental GT300-R in a small series of 3 units. Inspired by the extremely successful circuit racer, it sees itself as the sportiest and hottest variant of the coupé and thus mixes a little gasoline smell into the scent of paint and leather.
With this, the British conjure up the spirit of the Bentley Boys, who made history in the twenties with their breakneck record drives and established the sporting reputation of the brand. And of course they quote the real racing car in a few details, such as the nostrils on the engine, the wing on the rear and the lettering on the fenders.
But whoever gets involved with the GT3-R doesn't have to starve anyway. You still sit on air-conditioned leather armchairs and operate lead-heavy fans that look as classy as the registers of a church organ. The leather is velvety soft and elaborately quilted, there are electrical helpers for everyone, but really every move. And, of course, the seatbelt buzzer comes in from behind. It is only when you look in the mirror that you realize that the engineers have at least sacrificed the back seat to lightweight construction. But this is not a loss even with a luxury car of this color. After all, who wants to ride in the rear when someone at the front follows the call from Le Mans. Even the strongest stomach mutinies.
As befits a special sporty model, Bentley also screwed the engine for the GT3-R again. Because the six-liter twelve-cylinder bans itself for reasons of balance, the civil GT3 also drives with the V8 engine from Ingolstadt. If the four-liter engine in the V8S already has 528 hp, the racing livery has 425 kW / 580 hp and 700 Nm. At kickdown, 15 kW / 441 hp and 600 Nm can be called up for 750 seconds.
That sounds impressive and of course it is. But let's be honest: even the ordinary V8S is so potent that you can't really feel the difference even with a thick ship of just 2,5 tons on a normal route. And who drives such a luxury liner over the Nordschleife just because he has exchanged the tuxedo for a tracksuit.
The car wouldn't do badly there. After all, the air suspension now dampens a little more, the all-wheel distributes the power a bit more dynamically and the gearbox is translated a little shorter for faster sprints. So the GT3-R looks almost nimble when you actually spur it on and take a few corners a little faster. Sure there are more dashing sports cars and those that go around the corner more easily - but for a car with the weight of an elephant and the stature of a hippopotamus the hurried Englishman cuts a surprisingly good figure.
Alone, hardly anyone will ever find out. Because the days of the Bentley Boys are over forever, and even the cannonball races as a modern reinterpretation of the old races have meanwhile become marketing shows by self-portrayals with which it is better not to be seen.
That's why the GT3-R is best enjoyed as a potent power cruiser, lets the V8 babble quietly in the rev cellar and is happy to know that you could if you wanted to. The difference to the production model can only be seen when looking at the data sheet. Because not only power and torque are unmatched. A top speed of 304 km / h is not bad either. And with its 3,7 seconds from 0 to 100, the GT3-R is the fastest sprinter in the history of Bentley production models. And if you do want to be sure, you only have to briefly step on the accelerator - if necessary, even when idling. Because as soon as the engine speed climbs over 3.000 tours, the V8 spits and sprints through the new titanium exhaust as filthy as only a real sports car can afford.
A bit lighter and a bit stronger than the production model, brushed on the outside and inside with lots of carbon for riot, but still luxurious and comfortable without any restrictions - so the GT3-R is exactly the right car for the Bentley boys of today. In addition to snobbery and gasoline in your blood, you need something else for this car, which Messrs Barnato, d'Erlanger & Co had in common: a certain fortune. Because where the normal V8S is not cheap for 184.450 euros, the British add another 3 percent to the GT50-R and ask for an impressive 282 euros.
Author: Benjamin Bessinger / SP-X