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Bentley Bentayga to take on Pikes Peak

Will Beaumont
19 Jan 2018

Bentley will send its big SUV to compete in the famous Colorado hill climb


This year will enter its 600bhp, 2.4ton SUV, the Bentayga, into the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. It might not seem like Bentley’s most appropriate car to tackle the notorious hill climb in, but, as well as masses of turbocharged power, the Bentayga has 664lb ft of torque, adaptive dampers, active anti-roll bars and sophisticated three-chamber air suspension. That means it’s probably as suited to the twisty Colorado sprint as any luxury off-roader really could be. Still, Bentley’s motorsport department will be leading the project and will prepare the car for the event in June 218.

> Read our review of the Bentley Bentayga

The Pikes Peak hill climb is also known as The Race to the Clouds because of the altitude you need to climb to cross the finish line. The 12.42-mile route climbs 1440 metres through 156 corners to an altitude of 4300 metres – about half the height of K2. As a result internal combustion engines suffer at such altitudes, losing power as they climb higher and higher.

Thankfully, the 6-litre W12 in the front of the Bentayga has two turbochargers to force air into the cylinders to compensate for the lack of atmospheric density. It will still loose a significant amount of power as it barrels towards the finish line, but turbochargers have proved invaluable at Pikes Peak.

If, when you think of Pikes Peak, you imagine Ari Vatanen gliding a Peugeot 405 T16, complete with wings the size of picnic benches, from one dusty hairpin to another then you’re going to be disappointed by the modern version. Gone are the days of the hill climb being a sandy path to the top of the mountain; instead it’s tarmac the entire way now.

> Watch our video on Rimac’s electric Pikes Peak racer

Don’t think it’s gone soft, though. Once the road has emerged from the dense forest near the start line, the route becomes flanked by a rock wall on one side and an abrupt drop on the other. Only occasionally is there a thin sliver of Armco to stop cars launching off the top of a very tall cliff if they slide off the road.

A complete off-road course might have suited the four-wheel drive Bentayga well, but if Bentley wants to break any records it will be competing against other times set on the full-tarmac course. The SUV won’t be after Sébastien Loeb’s 8minute 13.87second record, set in 2013 with a Peugeot 208 T16 built especially for Pikes Peak. Instead, the fastest production SUV time of 12minutes 35.61seconds set by the Range Rover Sport in 2014 will be the one the Bentayga has to beat.

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