With the reveal of its Continental GT3 race car concept
, Bentley is showing that it’s serious about returning to the motorsports arena. Although you’d never guess it from the automaker’s current product line, Bentley has a long and successful history in motorsports, including a win at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans just one decade ago.
For Bentley, living up to the brand’s former glory is only part of the reason it's now considering a motorsports return. The other, and much more practical reason, is that racing can actually improve the breed of Bentley’s production models, particularly in terms of durability.
Speaking with Autocar
on the eve of the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show
, where Bentley will be presenting its Continental GT3 race car concept on U.S. soil for the first time, the automaker’s engineering boss Rolf Frech confirmed that production of Bentley's race and road cars could be closely linked.
“One of the major reasons for doing this project is to give our road car engineers some exposure to the quick-fire processes involved in building and racing cars,” he explained.
Though Bentley’s race car concept is built to FIA GT3 standards, it hasn’t been entered into any races just yet. A more likely scenario would be Bentley forming a new one-make racing series for the Continental coupe similar to what rivals such as Maserati and Lamborghini currently do with some of their cars.
However, there are also suggestions that it may be entered in endurance races such as the Spa 24 Hours by the fall of 2013 by a factory-backed team. The first customer race cars are expected to be built and sold in the following year.
At the same time, we could see a road-going version of the concept
built, perhaps even as a replacement for the aging Continental Supersports.