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Bentley of Britain will launch a full-scale two-car attack on Bathurst next year.
The ultra-luxury carmaker has just confirmed a factory entry in the Bathurst 12-hour sports car race in February, fielding a pair of its Continental GT3 racers.
It is not expecting to win but has already achieved victories in Europe and the USA in the first season with its production-based competition car, which is powered by a 4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine producing up to 600 horsepower.
“We are coming with the factory team to the Bathurst 12-hour. We decided last week at our headquarters in Britain,” the chairman and chief executive of Bentley Motors, Wolfgang Durheimer, revealed exclusively at the Paris motor show today.
“It will be two cars. The program will be run from our headquarters in Crewe.”
Durheimer also reveals that the effort in 2015 will be the start of a multi-year program for Bentley and he’s not expecting to win at the first attempt.
“We know that we are in the underdog position because we have a new car and no track data from the race, but we will do our best to give a good impression,” he said
“We are extremely pleased to bring the Bentley brand to a very knowledgeable audience and an outstanding historic racetrack in Australia. I have only heard and read about about Bathurst, but I believe it is the Australian Nurburgring.
“I am thrilled to do one lap on my own. Yes, I am hoping to get to the race.”
The Bathurst 12-hour has become a major international event in recent years, attracting a number of European entries including the Mercedes-Benz gullwing that finished second this year to a Ferrari 458 crewed by Craig Lowndes and John Bowe.
But it is at the heart of a major confrontation with V8 Supercar racing, which has scheduled its pre-season test at Sydney Motorsport Park on the same weekend in a decision that reflects clashes between rival television networks and the availability of marquee drivers including Lowndes and Shane van Gisbergen.
Durheimer said the lead car in the Bentley team will be shared by factory drivers Guy Smith, Steven Kane and Andy Meyrick but there had been no decision on the second car.
“For the second car, we didn’t decide yet. Applications are still possible,” he smiled.
Durheimer is promising much more than a race entry, even though factory motorsport personnel will soon travel to Bathurst to collect data and logistics information on the event and track.
“We do it entirely as a factory team, but I’m absolutely sure we will get connected to our dealer body. And the guys in Australia will support us as much as possible.
"We will do a major activation. GT racing, for us, is about getting access to the pits, to the team, to the strategy. We are absolutely approachable,” he said.
"We build very exclusive cars and we like the prestigious approach, but in terms of racing activities we have both feet on the ground and don’t intend to be the high fliers.
“We let the parents and the kids get involved.”
Durheimer said the program is already in top gear to make deadlines for the February event.
“My guys will come in the European winter time to asses the data. I don’t think it will be a one-off event for us.
“We know we need to be extremely humble to approach this track and these experienced drivers. Luckily we have scored a victory in the US in our first racing season and we were second in the Blancpain endurance season in Europe for teams and drivers.”