One of North America’s most arcane motorsport traditions, and one of the most challenging, is the annual charge up the mountain road that ends in glory at the summit of Pikes Peak in the Colorado Rockies. Starting at more than 9,300 feet above sea level, the race against the clock charges upward another 5,000 vertical feet, around 156 corners, to reach the summit. Pikes Peak has been going on for a long, long time and at one point, actually formed part of the USAC national championship when it encompassed everything from dirt miles at state fairgrounds to the Indianapolis 500. The full length of the course is paved now but Pikes Peak is no less intimidating, and unforgiving of mistakes, than it was as graded dirt. And unless you follow the event closely, you may not realize that Bentley, of all marques, has been among the most successful in recent Pikes Peak history, and will return this month to defend its uniquely British honor.
Specifically, Bentley aims to better the start-to-finish times it’s already established in setting Pikes Peak records for Production SUV – yes, there is such a category – and Production Car in 2018 and 2019, respectively. When this year’s edition hits the hill on June 27, Bentley’s new weapon will be what you see above, the Continental GT3 Pikes Peak, prepared by the boffins of Crewe in conjunction with Fastr, Bentley’s privateer FIA GT3 racing partner. To reach the top, and accomplish a Triple Crown of Pikes Peak records, the GT3 will have to average more than 78 MPH over the length of the course, where air density drops by one-third over sea level at the finish. The loaded gun will be a 4.0-liter V-8 with even larger twin turbochargers and shorty “screamer” exhausts, already tested to more than 750 horsepower in England on 98-octane racing biofuel. Once arriving stateside in the next few days, Bentley and its driver, three-time Pikes Peak champion Rhys Millen, will do chassis tuning for low-speed corners at Willow Springs Raceway in California, and thin-air performance evalution in Aspen, Colorado, before assaulting the historic hill. We just wish that Bobby Unser, the undisputed king of Pikes Peak who grabbed his checked flag last month, could be around to see this.