Today, Bentley is among the world’s most esteemed luxury automakers, on par with brands like Maybach and former sibling Rolls-Royce. In the early days of the company, however, the brand was better known for its racing success than for its prestige.

Bentley took wins at Le Mans in 1924, and then consecutively from 1927 through 1930. Rolls-Royce bought Bentley in 1931, and quickly ended the well-established racing program. Despite this, Bentley managed to retain a reputation for performance over the years, with many seeing the brand as the “driver’s Rolls-Royce.”

Following the split from Rolls-Royce in the late 1990s, Bentley again began to emphasize the sporting nature of its cars.  It returned to Le Mans, capturing victory with the Bentley Speed 8 in 2003 before setting a world ice speed record in the Continental Supersports Convertible.

In 2005, it began offering customers the “Power on Ice” driving experience, which put drivers behind the wheel of a Bentley Continental on a frozen Finnish lake. With between 560 and 610-horsepower on tap, the program promised plenty of excitement to go along with the instruction.

It’s been so successful that Bentley’s continued to offer the winter driving program, and this year’s event has participants driving the 621-horsepower Continental Supersports and the 567-horsepower Continental GT.

Still, Finland in winter isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, so Bentley is branching out its driver programs. For 2012, Bentley is launching driver training programs in North America, though specifics on dates and locations haven’t yet been released.

Bentley promises that its North American Bentley Driving programs will be an experience “like no other,” and we’re inclined to agree with them. A Bentley Continental GT may not be our first choice for a track day, but we’d still welcome the opportunity to put one through its paces at a classic North American race track.