Over the last few days, we have been saying that the Bentley Continental GT3 race car at the Paris Motor Show will bring Bentley back to Le Mans.
We've heard from many of you saying that a GT3 car cannot go to Le Mans, which is totally true. But there is more to the Continental GT3 than you can see, even in the awesome 360-degree mode pictured above.
At their press conference, Bentley said that they would be testing the car once they had a final specification for the majority of 2013. They would then return to racing, with their goal being 24 hour contests.
The premier endurance race is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Bentley has had great success. In its current spec, the GT3, which is still a concept, would not be eligible for Le Mans competition.
But I just had a conversation with Bentley, and I learned that the GT3 is just a starting point. At the beginning, the car will have a 700-plus horsepower 6.0 liter W12. After the testing year in 2013, one of the first endurance races the car is expected to undertake is the 2014 24 Hours of the Nurburgring, which is one of the premier endurance races for GT3. They also took our own Matt Hardigree for a lap in a Continental Super Sports.
The problem with the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring is that, while a stunning, huge event, it doesn't have the international fanatical following of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
So when I spoke about Bentley's success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and how great it would be to see them back there, I got a wry smile. When pushed, Bentley told me that they have an eye to go back to Le Mans in 2015.
That would require a further evolution of the car to meet the FIA and ACO's stringent regulations for endurance racers at the famed 24 hours, but it could be done and it is what they want. So the car that we've been showing you is currently a GT3 concept racer, but it can become so much more.
The VW Group also isn't worried about infighting between the brands. Currently, there are GT3 spec cars from Audi and Porsche also on the race track. When I asked if they were at all concerned about the brands fighting each other, they said they encourage it because competition will work to improve them all. And they have a point. If nearly every horse in a race is under one umbrella, they're all going to get faster together.
But there you have it, the Continental GT3 as we see it now may not be going to Le Mans, but expect a further evolution of the car to return the Flying B to the race in the next couple of years.