Bentley Motorsport’s 2018 Continental GT3 is set to mark a big push for the brand in customer GT racing, the British marque set to manufacturer more GT3 cars going forward and in turn get more customer teams on board over the next few years.
Tom Hodgson, the programme manager of Bentley Motorsport in North America says that Bentley’s GT3 programme is going from strength to strength with the new car in development and K-PAX Racing opting to compete in the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge season with a trio of current models.
“It’s been a long time coming, K-PAX are a very good team, and are well established,” he told DSC. “The quality of the team means they are involved, they want to know everything about the car. It’s quite exciting, I’m testing a car at the moment to send out to them.
“We’re absolutely looking for more customers to join, we’re always talking to people, and now the new car is available there’s been a lot more discussions. We proactively are trying to improve our customer base going forward.
“PWC is sprint racing, and it’s good, it’s easy to watch and follow. We would love if a customer would go to IMSA too, but don’t have plans for that as it stands. But we feel that the programme with K-PAX is big for us, and will be for the foreseeable future.
“We really want to boost our brand, win the title. The next announcement we make for that programme will be about drivers, but that’s a discussion on-going with K-PAX.”
The first Continental GT3 was produced in low numbers, the original targeted figure just 25 chassis (before growing to 29 through its cycle), as part of Bentley’s drive to do things differently and build the brand through quality rather than quantity.
This time round though, due to demand, that number is set to rise significantly, with Hodgson explaining to DSC that with the new car, there’s an initial target of up to 40 customer cars being produced.
“In terms of customer sales we have a different business model,” he explained. “We don’t plan on making hundreds of them like Audi or Mercedes, because we like to keep in touch with each car and be hands on with our customers, provide a personal service. So we plan to produce about 30 or 40 and are confident we can reach that target due to the level of interest. We hope to have more customers off the back of the new car being revealed.
“We’re not sure how many orders we can take early on just yet though, because we don’t know yet just how long it takes to build one.”
Before customers can order the new car though, midway through 2018, there’s plenty of developmental work being done by Bentley and its factory supported team M-Sport, who will run the car next year before sales begin.
“You’ll see the new car after Bathurst, we plan to homologate it early next year, and it’ll be available later in the year for customers. M-Sport will continue to be the team mainly involved, they’ve done a good job with the current car, which was homologated in 2014 (pictured testing with the team below, in 2013) and hasn’t had an ‘evo’ version. We hope the new car is similar in its success levels.
“We want the longevity that we had in the current car, and want to get everything right first time, as soon as it’s homologated.”
At the moment, Bentley is still pushing to add further customer teams to its stable, running the current car. Signing up new customers with a new car on the way isn’t easy, but Hodgson says that the Bentley brand is still a unique selling point on attracting an outfit like K-PAX Racing to come aboard.
“A lot of our pitch is about the Bentley brand, we offer something different in the way we run things. We’re very much involved in motorsport, I personally have worked in the road car side for years and now work in the motorsport arm. We have a lot of appeal, with the activities we do outside of the races.
“We get customers from our road cars involved, and our teams really like to be a part of that, there’s a lot of periphery things. Ultimately teams want to win though, and nothing distracts them for that, and we are successful, but on top of that there’s the brand.”