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Despite its considerable girth, the Bentley Bentayga will go racing

The Bentley Bentayga is a fine vehicle, but no one would ever mistake this hulking luxury SUV for a race car. So when a Bentayga races in the legendary Pikes Peak International Hill Climb June 24, it should make for one of the most entertaining motor-sport spectacles of the year.

First run in 1916, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of the oldest races in the United States. Vehicles climb a 12.4-mile course to the top of Colorado’s Pikes Peak, which sits 14,000 feet above sea level. The air near the summit is so thin that internal-combustion engines have trouble developing full power, and competitors must negotiate 156 turns on their way to the top.

Bentley will race a Bentayga powered by the 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 engine, rather than the less powerful V8 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 (Bentley also sells a diesel version in Europe). The W12 makes 600 horsepower and 663 pound-feet of torque, enough to propel a stock Bentayga from 0 to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds, and a top speed of 187 mph. Not bad for something that weighs more than two tons.

For added safety, the SUV was equipped with a roll cage, fire-suppression system, and racing seat. Bentley also swapped in a new Akrapovic exhaust system and Pirelli tires in place of the stock pieces. The automaker said about 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of interior trim had to be removed because of race rules, but that weight loss should also help the Bentayga’s performance. But since Bentley is aiming for the production SUV record, as many stock components as possible needed to be retained.

The Bentayga will race with its stock active anti-roll system, which uses electric power to adjust the stiffness of the anti-roll bars on the fly. It will be interesting to see how this system performs under racing conditions. To help its SUV stand out on the course, Bentley gave it greenish yellow “Radium Satin” paint and a carbon fiber body kit.

New Zealand native Rhys Millen will pilot the Bentayga. Millen is no stranger to Pikes Peak, having won the race in 2012 and 2015. His father, Rod Millen, racked up five Pikes Peak wins over the course of his career.

Bentley hopes to set a record for SUVs at Pikes Peak. The previous record for a production-model SUV was set in 2013 by a Land Rover Range Rover Sport, which clocked an impressive 12:35.61. Note that a prototype Faraday Future FF 91 completed the course in 11:25.083 last year. But the FF 91 hasn’t gone into production yet (and it might not go into production at all). A 2019 Acura RDX will also race at Pikes Peak this year, and could give the Bentayga a run for its money.

While Bentley aims for the SUV record, parent Volkswagen will try to set a new record for electric cars with a purpose-built racer. Called the I.D. R, it can accelerate from zero to 62 mph quicker than a Formula One car. Because it’s electric, the I.D. R also won’t be affected by the thin air on Pikes Peak. This should be interesting.

Updated on June 19 to include new photos and details on the Bentayga racer.

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Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
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