Road car news

Bentley launches GT3-R
Continental receives extra sporting touches | By Andrew Frankel

Bentley has released details of its most sporting car of the modern era, one its GT3 Continental racer is said to have inspired.

Called the Continental GT3-R, it receives a new state of tune for its 4-litre twin-turbo V8 motor, whose output has risen 60bhp compared with the recently launched V8S and now stands at 572bhp. Significantly, this is the first time Bentley has been allowed to feature the most powerful version of this engine (shared with Audi, whose 552bhp RS6 and RS7s have ruled the roost until now).

Bentley has also lowered the car’s weight by 100kg, largely by disposing of its rear seats and replacing them with a strut brace but also by such measures as the fitment of a titanium exhaust system and lighter wheels.

To make the most of its new-found potential, Bentley has dropped the overall gearing of the GT3-R sufficiently to lower its top speed from 192mph to 170mph. More positively and relevantly, this leads to the car now being capable of reaching 62mph from rest in just 3.8sec, a significant improvement (0.7sec) and with superior acceleration to any rival from Mercedes, BMW, Aston Martin, Maserati or, indeed, the aforementioned Audis.

The chassis is developed from that already found in the V8S and features torque vectoring on the rear wheels (a first for any Bentley product), allowing the car to apportion torque electronically to each rear wheel in order to help the car turn into a bend.

The GT3-R will be built in a strictly limited run of just 300 cars. While each will proceed down the same assembly line at Crewe as lesser Continentals, the GT3-Rs will then transfer to the motor sport department for final fettling.

Visually, a new carbon fibre rear wing, front splitter, 21in wheels and racy bonnet vents will distinguish the car. The interior upholstery is a blend of leather and Alcantara, with new sports seats and carbon fibre trim.

Bentley is keen to point out that the GT3-R remains a “Grand Tourer with the performance of a racer”. This is perhaps to head off those expecting something even more extreme as the first product to be developed since Bentley’s return to motor racing.

Certainly it seems that speculation about a carbon-bodied, rear-wheel-drive car with a kerb weight of below two tonnes was substantially wide of the mark. Despite its sporting title, the 2150kg GT3-R still weighs more than a Range Rover, retains its all-wheel-drive apparatus and remains suspended by air and clothed largely in steel.

It is not known whether this represents the cooling of Bentley’s view that an out-and-out sports car should be made, or whether this is Bentley simply clearing the path towards such a machine. But just as Jaguar has used both R and RS badging for its high-performance models, such a strategy would clearly also be available to Bentley.

New speeding fine row

You will have read of the government’s intention to quadruple the maximum fine payable by motorists caught speeding, from £2500 to £10,000.

The news has been greeted with predictable indignation by motoring groups, who fail to point out that the new plans merely increase the scope of magistrates. There is no suggestion that fines for the most common and mild speeding infractions will also quadruple.

If there is something to get wound up about, it is the fact that it will apply only if you’re caught speeding on a motorway. Do the same on a far more dangerous dual carriageway (which has the same speed limit as a motorway) and your maximum financial exposure is limited to £4000. And the same applies to any other kind of road, too.

Once again there is a need to point out that, contrary to the line parroted by successive governments and road safety organisations, it is not speed that kills but its inappropriate use. It follows that the greater the scope and therefore discretion that is put in the hands of reasonable human beings such as magistrates, the more likely it will be that punishments will fit the crime.

Renault takes control

The backstage bust-up between Caterham and Renault, reported on these pages two months ago, is now fully in the open. Renault has bought Caterham out of its share of their former joint sports car project and deleted the word ‘Caterham’ from the name of the company formed to host the venture.

It is understood that Société des Automobiles Alpine will continue to develop its version of the car while Caterham pursues its ideas separately.

No reason for the split has been given, but it is believed to be down to differences not only in what each manufacturer thought the finished product should be, but also the timescale required to prepare it for sale. Renault preferred to take a more relaxed view while Caterham wanted to bring the new car to market as soon as reasonably possible.

McLaren aims ever higher

McLaren has announced that a new version of its P1 hypercar will be developed in time to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its F1 winning Le Mans in 1995. Called the P1 GTR in honour of the winning F1 GTR, it will be a pure track car with total output from its combined engine and electrical power units raised from 903bhp to 986bhp, or 1000PS. It will also be priced at £1.98 million, fully seven figures more than the current car.

It is understood that cars will be offered only to existing P1 owners and that construction won’t start until all 375 P1 road cars have been delivered.

It is also believed that buyers will be offered high-level access to McLaren engineers and designers, driver training programmes and events around the world for like-minded individuals. Unlike Ferrari’s seemingly similar Enzo-based FXX programme, however, P1 GTR customers will be able to take their cars home.

Less certain is whether the P1 GTR signals McLaren’s growing interest in trying to win Le Mans once more.

The 1995 race was only the second in the history of the 24 Hours to be won by a manufacturer at its first attempt (the other being Ferrari in 1949, not including the Chenard et Walcker that won the inaugural race in 1923). And while there is currently no category in which such a car could race without being extensively re-engineered, rule changes in 2016 could make a racing P1 GTR a reality.

In the meantime, McLaren has released more details of next year’s P13 road car, understood to be a more affordable supercar than it has built to date and designed to compete with the likes of the Porsche 911 Turbo. It will continue to use a carbon fibre monocoque and is powered by a detuned version of the existing 3.8-litre twin turbo V8.

McLaren says there will be more than one derivative, which is code for coupé and convertible, and that it will be “comfortable, usable and beautiful”. McLaren’s road car division has also reported its first profits, making £4.5 million before tax on a turnover of £285.4 million.

Mégane sets ’Ring record

Renault has smashed the front-wheel-drive record for a lap of the Nürburgring. Its new RenaultSport Mégane 275 Trophy circulated the Nordschleife in just 7min 54sec, a time fast enough to have qualified the car in the top 10 for the 1982 1000Kms, faster than a number of Group C cars entered for that race.

The Mégane features a 271bhp engine, but the bulk of the lap time would have been delivered by features such as a Ohlins road and track adjustable dampers, composite front springs, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and an Akrapovic exhaust. It also lost its rear seats for a saving of 20kg, gained a lithium-ion battery to trim a further 16kg of mass and was fitted with bigger brakes.

All these features will be either standard or available on the £36,430 car, of which just 30 will be sold in the UK.

In brief

Subaru has broken its own record for the fastest lap of the Isle of Man TT course for a four-wheeled vehicle.

Driving a 296bhp WRX STI with only its suspension modified from factory standard specification, Mark Higgins lapped the course in 19min 26sec, carving a full half-minute off the time he set in the car’s predecessor in 2011.

This equates to an average speed of 116mph, which is impressive but still some distance shy of the 132.2mph average recorded by TT racer Bruce Anstey on a Honda in June this year.