I have enjoyed many Bentley-borne adventures, but none so surreal as my 2005 attempt to drive a Flying Spur at 200mph
The idea was simple and slightly silly. The double-ton was a fairly common claim among supercar manufacturers, but the idea of achieving such a speed in a four-door saloon appealed to my sense of the surreal. Bentley claimed the car was good for 195mph but after talking to Dr Eichhorn it seemed clear that, even by Bentley standards, the claim was conservative. So to make things more difﬁcult for the car, and because we could, we decided to try for 200mph with four people on board.
We repaired to the Nardo test track in Italy. It was 37deg C which made me worry about the tyres, engine cooling and charge temperatures but Brian Gush, Bentley’s powertrain guru, was conﬁdent that his engine and Pirelli’s tyres were up to the challenge. He pointed out that while the hot thin air would doubtless sap a few horsepower, it would also be easier for the car to punch a hole through.
So we all climbed in and thundered up onto the banking. The GPS readout hit 195mph so quickly I almost missed it. Then it kept climbing. 200mph came and went, then 205mph. At 208mph, just when I thought it might never stop, the car suddenly lost all power. We coasted to 180mph whereupon normal service was resumed, sweeping us back to 208mph and, once more, total power loss.
Even Gush scratched his head. Turned out we were hitting the rev-limiter in top. Lacking the tools to disable the limiter we tried everything for a decent lap average, including trying to set the cruise control for 206mph, which is how I know you can’t cruise a Bentley at over 186mph.
In the end we averaged ‘only’ 202mph. Still, not bad for a 2.5-tonne limousine carrying four people on a steeply banked track, with not only the air-con on but – as I later discovered – my passengers’ seat coolers turned up to the max too.
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