Pikes Peak, Colorado - We have to admit that this announcement had us wondering for a moment if it was datelined 1 April but no, it’s for real. Bentley has entered a gynormous Bentayga SUV for the 96th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on Sunday 24 June.
The target is the outright Production SUV course record - and to claim it the Bentayga will have to average at least 96km/h over the entire length of the 19.87km course, through 156 corners and climbing 1438 metres from start to finish.
At the wheel will be twice outright Pikes Peak champion Rhys Millen, whose race team has been working with Bentley Motorsport since January to prepare the car for “The Race to The Clouds”. They fitted a full roll cage and fire suppression system as per the safety rules, along with an Akrapovic sports exhaust and special super-sticky Pirelli tyres.
They also temporarily removed about 300 kilograms of interior trim (allowed under Production rules) fitted an off-the-shelf carbon fibre Bentley Styling Specification aero kit, comprising front splitter, diffuser, side skirts and aerodynamic rear spoiler, and finished the Bentayga in eye-catching radium satin green paintwork. Other than that, the Pikes Peak Bentayga is completely standard, relying on its adaptive air suspension and 48 volt electric active anti-roll control to keep it flying straight and level.
"You can only attack this course in a car that can accelerate and brake very hard, because it’s so tight and twisty,” said Millen. “The Bentayga’s 440kW, 900Nm W12 engine and carbon ceramic brakes enable it to just that, which is what I’ll be counting on for my run.”
We still reckoned the whole project was totally insane, until an older family member pointed out that the Pikes Peak Bentayga is not much bigger and certainly no heavier than “Old Number One”, the Bentley Speed Six with which Woolf Barnato won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1929 and 1930.