Although you’d never guess it from Bentley’s current product line, the luxury automaker has a long history of motorsports glory. From 1927 through 1930, Bentley dominated the competition at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, taking first place in four consecutive years (and capturing first through fourth place in 1929).

The post-war years saw Bentley changing its focus to luxury over sport, and it wasn’t until 2001 that Bentley returned to Le Mans competition with its EXP Speed 8. The lessons learned from this car helped Bentley to engineer the Speed 8, which took first place at Le Mans in 2003.

In the years since, Bentley has been absent from motorsport competition, but recent rumors had the brand eyeing a return to racing, likely with a Continental Supersports model developed for GT3 racing. It now appears those rumors are true, since Bentley will be showing its Continental GT3 concept racer at this week’s Paris Auto Show.

Compared to a production Bentley Continental GT, it’s easy to spot the GT3’s front splitter, wider bodywork and side-facing exhaust. The oversized rear wing is hard to miss, as are the hood vents that extract heat and reduce front-end lift at speed.

Though debuting the Continental GT3 as a concept (since the car remains under development), Bentley is serious returning to racing late in 2013. A test program for the car is set to begin early next year, and early results will indicate how much additional work is needed before the car can be campaigned.

Giving an idea of the company’s mindset on racing, Chairman and Chief Executive Dr. Wolfgang Schreiber said, “The clear message from our customers is that Bentley belongs on the racetrack, and the Continental GT3 is the realization of a dream we’ve had ever since the launch of the Continental GT.”

Schreiber went on to say that the Continental GT3, “establishes a solid foundation for Bentley’s long-term motorsport plans.” As fans of both Bentley and motorsports in general, we certainly like the sound of that.

Want more breaking news from Paris? Be sure to follow our complete coverage of the 2012 Paris Auto Show.