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What it's like to drive Bentley's Continental GT3 racecar

What it's like to drive Bentley's Continental GT3 racecar
What it's like to drive Bentley's Continental GT3 racecar

What it's like to drive Bentley's Continental GT3 racecar - I'm slipping across the back roads of Napa in a Bentley Flying Spur V8 S, and all is right with the world. Two and a half tons of metal, leather, and hubris provide insulation, while the audio system's eleven speakers stifle me with the syrupy sounds of Katy Perry as the landscape floats past. My guilty desire is excavation alone, because this bank vault on motors is practically soundproof.

But I'll soon be harnessed into a fearsome hellion that would frighten all but the edgiest of Bentley owners. I'm headed to Sonoma Raceway to drive the 2,800 -pound, 600 -plus-horsepower Bentley Continental GT3 racecar. Goodbye swankiness, hello madness.

Bentley maybe isn't the first symbol you associate with scooting, but the Flying B's competition highlights include Le Mans earns in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, and, most recently, a top finish at the fabled fortitude episode with the brand's 2003 return. The 1-2 victory in' 03 came in the wildly engineered LMGTP prototype class; it wasn't until a more relatable, Continental GT-based car was campaigned eight years later that Bentley unlocked all the opportunities of its rich biography. 

" Motorsports is virtually a business tool ," Bentley race boss Brian Gush told Autoblog at the GT3' s scoot debut three years ago, reinforcing the industry's familiar" scoot on Sunday, sell on Monday" mantra. But let's also tip-off a hat to the intangible: There's something undeniably cool about watching a beefed-up edition of your daily driver duelling it out on a world-class move, specially when that car is a fat-cat comfort coupe that seems better suited to the roadway than the scoot circuit.

After swapping blue jeans for a Nomex jumpsuit, I watch as the GT3 emerges from the transporter, and the perception is extremely intimidating. It's wide and low, with an impossibly big wing. There's another source of intimidation: While a small group of columnists has sampled Bentley's media car, I'm about to get behind the motor of a privateer-owned car. No pressure.

" Ever filled the owner ?" a Bentley rep asks, referring to Team Absolute's Adderly Fong." He's a big guy, intend, with a really short temper ," he quips, which is essentially shorthand for" don't wreck his car ." I crack a tentative smile, recognise the not-so-veiled message.

Bentley test driver Butch Leitzinger gives me the lowdown on this particular GT3, which happens to be coming fresh off a top-ten finish at the weekend's Pirelli World Cup Challenge. The tips are simple-minded: no sudden throttle inputs, especially on area exit; careful not to bottom out at the base of the hill; don't drive too slow during the car-to-car photo pass because the car moves sizzling; and of course, the returning topic: Don't crash the thing. 

Almost everything about the rear-drive, tube-chassis GT3 racecar impressions diametrically opposed to its all-wheel-drive roadgoing equivalent. Most immediately, the racecar's mas panels see shockingly flimsy: while a production car's opening tips-off the scales at 125 pounds, the GT3' s weigh less than 15. And though the cockpit contains the basic cascade shape across the dashboard, the seat is unadorned, dominated by raw carbon fiber and unfinished faces. The standard hand-stitched, airbag-equipped steering wheel is replaced with a scoot legion strewn with more than a dozen buttons and dials. Analog gauges ought to have ripped out in favor of a strictly business LCD display, stimulating the few holdovers from the production car( like interior opening controls, knurled metal paddle shifters, and the HVAC volcanoes with their organ pulls) seem strangely out of place.

Activate the oil shoot and smash the starter, and a cerebrum-rattling thrum reverberates through your sternum. Cinched within a five-point harness, there's virtually no jiggle apartment in any direction. But thankfully, my 185 -pound enclose fits snugly in the Recaro race pails, allowing me were concentrated in the first large-hearted task of the day: executing a smooth exit off the line. Moving from a standstill is trickier than it sounds, and concerns carefully participating a grabby clutch while feeding in throttle. Once successfully wheeling, another seam of noise replenishes the room- the dense complain of the Xtrac six-speed's straight-cut paraphernaliums. Unlike a developed-to-death production car, the GT3 depicts its rough perimeters in excavation path, with incomplete throttle used to produce neck-snapping driveline thong. 

As I accelerate up the hill toward Turn 2, the GT3 comes into its own as simply a racecar can, the increasing accelerate highlighting the machine's singularly focused temperament. I take the first few regions easy; mechanical control impressions astonishingly scant at very low fasts, specially because the Pirelli PZero rubber is cold. Even with the resistance self-control in the comparatively restrictive 7 setting, the fanny kicks out when the rubber isn't up to temperature. But as confidence body-builds and I acclimate to the right-hand-drive configuration( which actually experiences astonishingly natural because it frames the apexes into a clear sightline on this counterclockwise move ), my accelerate promotes and the GT3 starts to sing, its communicative steering giving the surface below with accuracy.

A few concepts provided the 4.0 -liter V8' s dominance transmission apart from that of wall street car. For starters, the engine, which is covered at 600 horsepower in scoot spec, feels like its twinned turbochargers spool more quickly and seamlessly, roughly disguising the fact that there's any pressured induction. The scoot device seems to wind up more eagerly, as if the drastic weight loss includes a big reduction in rotational mass. Maximum revs aren't particularly high- after all, Bentley has always been known for low-revving torqueiness , not screaming redlines- but restraining an heart on the progressive switching sunrises remain you from ricochetting off the rev limiter like an amateur. It takes a firm thrust of the middle pedal to slow-paced the car down, but the unboosted brakes have breathtaking stopping dominance when you get into them. It stops just as effectively as it moves, maybe even better.

Once you get a feel for how authoritatively it was able to decelerate, the GT3 can be driven with more anger guiding into regions. Don't overdo it with the lids, and there's a shocking extent of cornering control thanks to the car's extraordinary downforce and sticky scoot slicks. The unplug between expecting the car to wing off the move and its pressing to remain ground requires a leap of faith. But once you've subdued the fear of los, the GT3 manages to guide itself through high-speed regions with a level of adhesion that simply cannot be matched by street vehicles, which are invariably adjusted for aerodynamic impartiality not downforce. 

Another puzzled happen about racecars: the faster they move, the more natural they seem. While upshifts are clunky at low fasts, they're bash bash fast when you're cook; the GT3' s brakes yelp and sigh at piddling velocities, but clamp down for real when you're running. Try to drive a competitive racecar slowly, and you're rewarded with the ignominy of appearing graceless and hamfisted. Propagandize it to wring out its performance, and it constructs you ogle good, as long as you don't push too far.

As I pull into the pits at the end of the session, it experiences as though the GT3 has altered from foe to co-conspirator. Its jarring harshness at low fasts build no concedings to drivability or ease- virtually the opposite of wall street car. But the GT3 enters alive with accelerate, reacting with fierceness and effortless facility. Fast, furiou, and unapologetic, the GT3 racecar is a charismatic and eminently feasible equivalent to the roadgoing Continental GT, a steroidal leaping of recital that does without the cherished affectations of comfort. Quite simply, it only comes on with carrying ass.

As though to remind me of its ominous feature, the GT3' s exhaust pipe scorches my ankle as I movement around the bun enclosure and ascent out. My drive home in the Flying Spur is predictably nonviolent and smooth, but with a slight stinging superstar on my leg that ensures I won't forget the bespoilered beast.

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