Bentley has confirmed that testing for its Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Bentayga W12 is now complete. This means the challenger, which will be driven by Rhys Millen, is now ready for its record attempt over the weekend.
Millen, just so you know, is a California-based Kiwi who is a two-time outright winner of the 156-corner hill climb and a multiple class winner as well. He was confirmed around the time when our sister publication Autocar UK visited Bentley's Crewe headquarters to inspect the Bentayga he will pilot. Bentley is confident it can set a new class standard, especially with Millen at the wheel, considering he has lived and breathed the event for almost his entire adult life, with his father Rod being a five-time winner in the 1990s.
British racing legend Woolf Barnato would approve of this attempt, for one. Tackling the Pikes Peak hill climb, one of the original motorsport tests dating back to 1916, is firmly in the spirit of the challenges undertaken by Barnato and the other original Bentley Boys of the 1920s, after all. Back then, the Bentley Boys proved the prowess of the manufacturer’s models by racing against trains, dominating Le Mans and setting records at Brooklands as well.
Now, to prove the Bentayga W12 can out-muscle and out-handle its high-riding performance car rivals, Bentley is heading to the Colorado mountain this weekend to attack the class record for production SUVs. That benchmark currently resides at Gaydon: in 2014, a Range Rover Sport driven by Paul Dallenbach set a time of 12min 35.610sec for the 19.9km course.
Finished in a striking green wrap, the Bentayga is being prepared by Bentley’s motorsport department, headed by Brian Gush.
The sprint-prepped Bentayga is running a standard 5950cc W12 engine which produces 607hp and 900Nm of torque. As a twin-turbocharged unit, it will suffer less from the performance losses that afflict naturally aspirated engines at higher altitudes, although Gush says “even a turbocharged car will lose about 5-10 percent of its power” during the 1,440m climb from start to summit.
Millen adds: “That’s when displacement is the biggest factor. All credit to the Bentayga, because six litres are what you want. The engine is basically like a big air pump.”
“One of the most impressive things I’ve found with car is the gearshift. The first four gears are stacked very closely. The average speed for the run will be mid-110kph and the maximum speed will be in the region of 200kph, but for most of the run I’ll be between second and fourth” he concludes.
The Bentayga will run in an ‘exhibition’ class, with as few tweaks as possible to stay close to production specification. Changes are largely safety-related: the driver gets a carbon fibre safety seat and all other seats will be removed. The panoramic glass roof, standard on the road car, is replaced with an infill panel. Trim and extraneous equipment will be removed, and a roll-cage and fire extinguisher will be installed.
Beyond that, the rulebook permits anything that exists on the road car’s spec sheet (both, standard and optional kit), so any components that offer a weight or performance advantage are fitted. In all, the Pikes Peak-spec Bentayga is roughly 300kg lighter than its road-going equivalent although it still weighs about two tonnes. Thankfully (for Millen), carbon ceramic brakes – offered as an option on the road car – have been fitted onto the Bentayga for the event.
Bentley won’t be drawn as to whether this year’s effort is a one-off, but with the company’s centenary looming next year, another tilt at the record in 2019 would be a fitting way to celebrate the heroic feats of the Bentley Boys of both, the past and present.