Good Oil: Pikes Peak … in a Bentley Bentayga
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Pikes Peak. It’s oft-viewed as the world’s ultimate hill climb event; a 20km rise through 156 thinly protected corners, ending at an altitude of 4300m. The climb takes racers up 1440m through lunar-like landscapes just two hours south of Denver.
Dangerous? Oh yes; to cars and drivers alike. The canyon closest to the summit is known as Bottomless Pit. You sense a theme up there against the ceiling of Colorado? There’s a Mad Max vibe to the be-winged hill climb hardware, and a distinct absence of the fear gene when it comes to the drivers.
They’re generally from rallying stock, with thousand-yard stares and an “indifferent shrug” approach to things like sheer cliffs.
The Pikes Peak record-holder is none other than retired rally ace Sebastien Loeb, who tackled the hill from bottom to top in 8 minutes 13.87 seconds.
He did that in a specially built Peugeot 208 T16 race car. The fastest production car to have completed the course is a Range Rover Sport, which made the ascent in 12 minutes 35.61 seconds.
So, when we discovered Bentley has entered this year’s June event, we looked forward to the idea of some block-panel enhanced Continental GT screaming up the well-worn route, hunting down that Rangey’s record. But Bentley is entering a Bentayga.
That’s right. The British manufacturer is entering a 2.4-ton SUV in the Pikes Peak climb.
On paper that sounds mad. Then again, weight aside, the Bentayga comes armed with the sort of bruising firepower that could play to its advantage.
Don’t forget that, under its broad bonnet, lies a 6.0-litre twin turbo W12, pushing out maximum power of 447kW and a gargantuan 900Nm slab of peak torque.
Those turbochargers will be handy as the plush SUV makes its ascent; internal combustion engines tend to wheeze at such great heights, so having not one but two turbos to force air into the cylinders will be a bonus.
But we’re not sure that antique set of drawers or the Mulliner picnic hamper in the boot will play to the Bentley team’s advantage.
Regardless, we can’t wait to see what a Pikes Peak hill climb-prepped Bentayga racer looks like.
Cars up for grabs but no sign of Mr Bean’s Mini
Rowan Atkinson is auctioning off a few toys ...
…and no sorry; none of them is his near-priceless (save for those times he’s crashed it) McLaren F1.
In fact, perhaps a little like the actor himself, the cars in question are unique, if not slightly odd. Well, the jewel on the auction block is, at any rate. It’s a 1989 Lancia Thema.
No; no typos there. Rowan Atkinson CBE bought and meticulously restored a generally forgettable and lamentable mid-sized sedan made by a once-proud Italian firm slowly going down the gurgler.
Why? Who knows? Although the Thema is interesting over and above the name on its registration papers. It is a Series 1 example; one of 2300 built that — due to a strange quirk of in-house parts-bin engineering — featured the same 3.0-litre V8 as seen in the Ferrari 308. That’s right; this Lancia Thema boasted a Ferrari V8 engine driving the front wheels.
So, this is a seriously rare car. Most Themas are rare for perhaps all the wrong reasons, in that few bothered to buy them in the first place. The Series 1 Thema with the Ferrari engine, however, at least gives it all the quirk you’d expect from a 1980s-era Italian three-box sedan.
Atkinson clearly recognised the unusualness of the car. Apparently only nine were sold new in the UK at its time of release.
The comedian found his example in 2010 and then proceeded to spend a fair bit of coin bringing it back to near-concours condition. With a Ferrari Monza Red exterior and lots of soft beige velour inside, its utter Eighties-ness makes it a time-warp car with a difference.
Slightly more conventional, the other garage bay Atkinson is freeing up via auction, once housed a rather lovely W124 Mercedes-Benz 500E; a car built in collaboration with Porsche at the latter’s Zuffenhausen performance centre. Another rarity (but perhaps with a heap more pedigree), the Benz boasts a 240kW 5.0-litre V8. The actor bought one when new, then sold it and, in 2010, found the one he is now putting up for sale.
Both cars will be auctioned in late February. No mention of a dilapidated green Mini also up for grabs in the brochure, though.
Mercedes G-Wagen gets the Jurassic Park treatment
Is Mercedes-Benz feeling more keenly the End of Days with regard to internal combustion engined transport as we know it? As part of the celebrations around the latest update to the iconic G-Wagen (or G-Class as the carmaker annoyingly insists it be called these days), the company has taken a 1979 G-Wagen and encased it in a 44-tonne block of resin.
Well, s’art innit?
The effect is rather mesmerising and the process by whcih it ruined a near-mint 40-year old G-Wagen was extremely complicated.
According to Mercedes-Benz, the project took 90 days to complete and the amber casing was painstakingly constructed by adding around 30mm of vertical height every day. The resin block measures in at 5.4m long, 2.5m wide and nearly 3.2m high.
We’d like to think that, one day many centuries in the future, someone might chip away at that amber block and free the G-Wagen.
If there is still a puddle of refined oil somewhere at hand, we’d like to think those future archaeologists might even (after having retrieved the paper manual from the glove compartment and learnt how) fill the thing with gas.
We’ve no doubt the engine would probably turn over, too ... assuming they can locate that antiquated object known as an ignition key.