When someone asks if you're a God, you say "YES!" When Bentley asks if you'd like to go lead the starting lap of the Nürburgring 24 in the CEO's Continental GT Supersports while it's being driven by former DTM champ Eric Van De Poele, you say "Hell YES!"
No one asked me the former last month while I was waiting for the start of one of the world's most exciting endurance races — a God would probably wear a less wrinkled shirt — but the nice folks at Bentley did ask me the latter and I quickly agreed.
With the crowds cheering us on from the edges of the track and a pro in the driver's seat, it was about as insane a first lap of the 'Ring as I could have ever imagined.
It started out innocently enough. Our friend Chris Harris wasn't going to the race this year, seemingly unable to stand merely viewing a competition that he'd previously taken part in. I'd mentioned to him I was swinging by the race on the start of my tour of Germany, so when Bentley asked if he'd like to take a lap he kindly passed my name on to them.
When I arrive I'm told that I'd be taking a lap of the 'Ring — the starting parade lap of the race — in a Bentley Muslanne being driven by none other than German Touring Car Champ and frequent endurance race winner Eric Van De Poele.
At the head of our parade of cars will be Bentley and Bugatti CEO Wolfgang Durheimer in his graphite-and-yellow Continental GT Supersports.
A few minutes before the race starts, I'm sitting in the suddenly warm day, hoping I won't have to shed my black jacket and reveal just how crumpled my clothing is below. I'm standing next to the Mulsanne pacing around, looking for Van De Poele.
All of a sudden I'm ushered to the bumblebee instead of the Mulsanne. The boss's car. The fastest and meanest Bentley of them all.
Then, a few handshakes and we're off… to a waiting position. My heart rate, which had quickly accelerated, settles again. We get out of the cars and stand around. Durheimer asks about the speed and another driver lets him know "We don't need to go there that fast."
Van De Poele quickly interjects. He's gone fast. Bentley's are great at going fast. He just ripped a Bentley Arnage T around the 'Ring and it was no problem.
Suddenly, we're on the move again. We're screaming towards the… other waiting area. This time closer to the track. We all get out again and I see the great photographer James Lipman snapping photos. I admit, I think I look cool and this is a completely badass way to make a first impression.
Sitting in the car I motion to Durheimer and he rolls down the window. The man then responsible for both Bentley and Bugatti, among other responsibilities, is in a great mood. He's about to get promoted to another position. It's a beautiful day.
In a moment of pure humor he rolls down the window and, perhaps remembering the prior assurances from Van De Poele of how fast he could go, implores me not to let him push it.
"Make sure he drives it carefully, I need it on Monday", Durheimer says, probably joking.
His jesting isn't completely out-of-bounds. Even though we're third in a line of cars when we take off on the opening lap, Van De Poele is already finding a quicker and sharper line than the other drivers. Including the boss, who is in a sparkling blue car in front of us.
"It's the best. I think it's every lap you can do on the Nordschliefe… I don't want to say it's an orgasm, but nearly," Van De Poele says.
We're out driving on a track I've seen a million times on Forza as I try to process just where we are, which would turn out to be unnecessary as Van De Poele is happy to point out all the turns and give a sense of how you'd be driving this if you were really racing. He's so cool and calm you wouldn't believe there are 150 racing machines waiting to blast past us at the drop of a flag.
The Nürburgring 24 is a people's race, and the track is covered in people being held back by corner workers and race marshals. We're not exactly what they expect to come around the corner when the lap starts but many cheer the five gleaming Bentleys.
And if that wasn't enough, Van De Poele hangs back to gather enough space to charge forward, an explosion of the car's 12 pistons in that strange W configuration you can feel in your chest. THAT always gets a cheer. As does rubbing the tires along edges of the track.
Inside I give a cheer of my own as the crazy Belgian propels himself forward around the track with such speed that he has to then lean heavily on the brakes to stop us from slamming into the back of the big man's Mulsanne in the big man's Continental GT.
About halfway through the lap I feel like I'm in the race. The crowds are cheering for ME. Maybe it's the adrenaline. Maybe it's the novelty. Maybe it's just how a big ass Bentley makes you feel inside.
Suddenly, it's over. We pull off the track and the real race starts. The real drivers. I thank Van De Poele for a truly unique experience and thank the real Gods for preventing me from embarrassing myself.
It's a truly unique way to do a first lap, but for my next trip around the Green Hell I've gotta be in the driver's seat. Maybe Durheimer doesn't need that Bentley anymore...