Despite kicking off the 2020 Intercontinental GT Challenge season in fine fashion by winning the 12 Hours of Bathurst in Australia (above), Bentley put its factory GT3 racing efforts in conjunction with M Sport on ice in June at the height of the international coronavirus pandemic. After the legendary British brand’s customer teams failed to deliver quality results for the 8 Hours of Indianapolis and the 24 Hours of Spa, Bentley has decided to pull the plug.
Instead of preparing for the December 12th Kyalami 9 Hour race in South Africa, Bentley has closed out its accounts with M Sport and released factory drivers Jules Gounon, Maxime Soulet, Jordan Pepper, Oliver Jarvis, Seb Morris and Alex Buncombe from their respective contracts. M Sport will enter the Kyalami race as non-supported privateers with Jarvis, Morris, and Buncombe, but with sponsorship from Sparco rather than the flying B mothership. Gounon, Soulet, and Pepper are only 3 points shy of the championship lead, and will run the 9 hour with U.S.-based K-PAX racing to close out the IGTC season.
Bentley has been racing the Continental GT3 for nearly exactly seven years, having made its racing debut at the 2013 running of the Gulf 12 Hours race in Abu Dhabi. The first generation Continental GT3 (based on the second generation Continental street car) was unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed that year, and made a large and hefty impression on the motorsport community. Since then it has been a staple of motorsport all over the world, including Blancpain endurance and sprint competition in North America, Europe, and Asia. The second generation race car was introduced on the current chassis in late 2017. Both versions made use of a turbocharged V8.
With the GT3 program done, Bentley is looking into what it can accomplish in perhaps a higher profile and maybe a little bit faster competition. In a discussion with Motorsport.com following the discontinuation announcement, Bentley’s head of motorsport Paul Williams confirmed that the company was weighing four or five different options for the future.
Williams initially stated that he wasn’t going to disclose which avenues Bentley was pursuing, but when pressed by Motorsport reporters confirmed that discussions were open with the FIA to participate in a future electric GT series. He also went on to say that Formula E was “obviously a consideration” with the upcoming regulation changes for more power and integrated charging coming in late 2022.
Bentley has a long history with Le Mans, obviously, though the company hasn’t participated in the great 24 hour endurance spectacle since it last won in 2003. A return to high-profile endurance sports car racing might be in the cards for the company as Williams admitted Bentley was exploring efforts in Le Mans Hypercar, LMDh, and a proposed hydrogen-powered prototype class joining the fray in 2024.
If Bentley is going to be moving to an all-electric future in just ten years, it would make sense that the company start planning its motorsport efforts to coincide with this planned future. Whether that means hybrid prototype sports cars or all-electric open-wheelers is yet to be determined, but apparently we haven’t heard the last of Bentley Motorsport quite yet.