The Bentley Continental GT is a fantastic slab of luxury, but its immense size makes it an unlikely candidate to set a record on one of the world’s toughest race courses. Yet that’s exactly what Bentley just did at the 2019 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, setting the record for production cars at the storied Colorado race. Driver Rhys Millen piloted a Continental GT up Pikes Peak in 10:18.4, beating the previous record by 8.4 seconds.
While it does sport a 626-horsepower, 6.0-liter W12 engine (Bentley also makes a V8 version), the Continental GT was designed for long-distance cruising, not attacking racetracks. Bentley does race highly modified Continentals on road courses, but the Pikes Peak car had to remain mostly stock (aside from safety equipment) in order to qualify for the production-car record on the 12.4-mile course. Drivers face blind corners, sheer drop-offs, and changing weather conditions on the way to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak. A decrease in oxygen near the summit also robs internal-combustion engines of power.
Pikes Peak divides cars into multiple classes, encompassing both production cars and purpose-built racers. The previous production car record of 10:26.9 was set by a Porsche 911 Turbo S in 2014. However, the overall record stands at 7:57.1. It was set by the Volkswagen I.D. R, an electric car built specifically for Pikes Peak, in 2018.
Bentley had a major advantage in the form of driver Rhys Millen. Nicknamed “King of the Mountain,” the New Zealander has won Pikes Peak five times. In 2018, he broke the record for production SUVs in a Bentley Bentayga. Millen’s time of 10:49.9 beat the previous record by nearly 2 minutes.
The Pikes Peak Continental GT wore the same electric green color as 2018’s record-breaking Bentayga, as well as the number 100, because 2019 is Bentley’s 100th birthday. A new Pikes Peak record was exactly the kind of birthday gift Bentley’s top brass was hoping for. Racing is an important part of the Bentley mythos, thanks to a string of Le Mans victories in the 1920s and one more in 2003. Most customers will likely never take their cars to a racetrack, but that history inspired Bentley to make the Continental GT sportier than it has any right to be.
Updated on July 1, 2019: Added confirmation of new record.
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