While currently achieving success around the globe with its Continental GT3, Bentley is targeting a re-entry into prototype racing, with a focus on the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Bentley CEO Wolfgang Durheimer has revealed that the British manufacturer is monitoring developments in the new-for-2017 Prototype class, with an eye towards building a program that would compete for overall wins in North America.
“It’s our philosophy at Bentley Motors to race where we can win overall,” Durheimer told Sportscar365 in an exclusive interview. “The United States is our single biggest market, so I would really like to see our cars racing in the U.S., not only in Pirelli World Challenge but also in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.”
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Bentley re-entered U.S. racing in 2014 with Dyson Racing-run Continental GT3s in World Challenge, with the factory supported team stepping up to a two-car program in the sprint race championship this year.
Should the green light be given, it would mark Bentley’s first prototype program since the Speed 8, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2003 (pictured above).
“With this, we’d race the entire United SportsCar Championship and we could compete [for the overall win] in the Daytona 24,” Durheimer said.
Bentley’s Director of Motorsport Brian Gush added that the arrival of new LMP2-based regulations in the series, which will allow direct manufacturer involvement, is appealing to the manufacturer.
“We’re looking at it as a possibility for us," Gush said. "There’s no possibility really to go to LMP1 because of the bigger budgets. If you want to do WEC, you’d have to do P1.
“If you did [Prototype in the TUDOR Championship], you’d put the OEM engine it and style the bodywork so it had some product DNA or similarities.”
Gush said Bentley’s current Continental GT3 program hits the right demographic thanks to its street-to-track relevance, something IMSA’s new Prototype plan could also deliver, but to a lesser degree.
“We’re here to sell cars and build a brand image,” he said. “What we’re doing today, we’re building the image of Bentley as a sporting brand, appealing to a young audience who are sport-minded.
“GT3 does that exactly that for us because you see the car on the track and parked in the paddock as a road car. You’d have to get a quite distinct link between the brand and whatever you did to make sure you maximized the brand’s visibility on track.”
With an engine program and bodywork package not being as intensive as a ground-up design of an entire car, it’s understood Bentley has some time to make a final decision on whether to move ahead with the project.
“For the time being, we’re dedicating all of our racing activities to the GT program, to establish this massively and to underline that we are a winner and that we are competitive and we take it seriously,” Durheimer said. “Once this is done we can at other things.”