Bentley Rumored to Return to Endurance Racing LMP2 Prototype
A Bentley LMP2 prototype could hit the race tracks as soon as 2017.by Ciprian Florea, on
Bentley could return to racing in the prototype league by the end of the decade. That’s the word from Autocar, which claims that the British carmaker is secretly working on a new LMP2-spec race car that would mark the brand’s return to prototype endurance racing for the first time since it won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2003.
Even though Bentley didn’t confirm the new LMP2 program, company boss Wolfgang Durheimer reportedly described it as "a good idea which we are looking at closely." On the other hand, he did say that 2019 would be "too late" to return to racing, which means that Bentley’s new prototype could be ready in time for the 2017 or 2018 season.
Asked whether Bentley was considering a return to the top LMP1 category, Durheimer said that such a program would be "too expensive and too complicated." This statement may have something to do with the fact that Audi and Porsche, both under the Volkswagen Group umbrella, are already battling for supremacy in that class. Given its current troubled times due to the "Dieselgate" scandal, it’s safe to assume that VW isn’t too keen on spending a serious amount of money on a third LMP1 team.
The LMP2 car, on the other hand, would be less expensive to develop. To be built to the new LMP2 regulations that come into force in 2017, the new car won’t be designed from scratch. The new rules mandate that all teams use one of four nominated chassis from constructors such as Dallara and Oreca, leaving Bentley only in charge of aerodynamics and drivetrain.
Speaking of which, Durheimer confirmed that Bentley will use its own engine that "will be taken from what we already have." Given Bentley’s current lineup, the most likely candidate is the twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 used in the Continental GT and other vehicles. The powerplant pumps out up to 626 horsepower in the current road-going vehicles, so extracting a similar output from a race-spec unit shouldn’t be an issue.
Continue reading for the full story.
Why it matters
While a return to the LMP1 category wouldn’t make much sense for Bentley right now, an LMP2 program is definitely doable thanks to the new rules that provide automakers with chassis. Not only this strategy will help reduce costs, but will also enable Bentley to have a ready-to-go, race-bred platform at its disposal without spending months, if not years, on development. The new racing program will also be run in-house rather than contracted out, as is the GT3 program, giving Bentley the opportunity to put the lessons it learned developing the Vulcan to good use. What’s more, a factory racing program would also enable the brand to develop new technology for road-going sports cars and maybe create the right environment for a new performance vehicle to sit under the Continental GT.