by Shin Takei
The 2013 Bentley Continental GT3
For citizens of the United Kingdom and its territories, the Royal Warrant is a familiar concept. For those of us on this side of the pond, we might not know what it is because we have nothing like it here. However, we may have seen the Royal Crest and the unmistakable “By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen” proudly displayed on products such as Crabtree & Evelyn, Fortnum & Mason, HP Sauce, Johnny Walker, and Twinning’s Tea. There are over 269 members on the list, which include most trades like food, clothes, jewelers, household items, and automobile manufacturers like Bentley Motors, Ltd. Royal Warrants were granted at first to those entities exclusively serving the Royal Household, but over the years, they’ve been allowed to serve the public.
This brings us to another word familiar with the Brits: “bespoke”. In the Mayfair District of central London is Savile Row, known for men’s bespoke tailoring harking back to 1846. Originating from “be spoken for”, this term simply means made to order exclusively per the customer’s choice of materials and style to tailor a suit, shirt, tie, hat, or shoes to fit his physique. High-end automobile manufacturers have a bespoke program whereby the customer can choose from a myriad of colors and performance upgrades and choices of wheels and tires for the exterior. He or she can also choose the exact materials for the interior upholstery and trim to personalize the vehicle. After all of the choices are made, then the assembly of this bespoke automobile begins. It will truly be unique as no one else will have exactly the same creation.
For Bentley manufacturing, one lady is assigned to stitching the leather of a Bentley steering wheel and she has been with the company for a long time. She takes three days to painstakingly assemble the steering wheel just like the shoemakers at John Lobb on St. James Street. In other words, bespoke is an art form where tradition and skills have been passed on from one generation to another and where apprenticeship is what keeps the trade alive.
So what does all this have to do with the Bentley Continental GT3? Most owners of super cars and sports cars have never taken their cars to the limit of their design parameters. Most likely, 95% have never seen the top speed, the limits of adhesion, or the braking power of their exotic machines. Instead the cars grace the garages and driveways of their owners’ homes or the front of a hotel or restaurant courtesy of the valet parking service. And why not? Who wants to punish their precious car to tire squealing and smoking drag racing launches or drifting around corners just a hair under losing control.
This is where the new Continental GT3 comes in as the ultimate bespoke offering from Bentley Motors, Ltd. The GT3 Racing Series is a fiercely contested venue that currently includes teams fielding Audi R8 LM, Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Gallardo LP60, and Mercedes Benz SLS. These cars contest in long distance endurance racing in Europe and the United States at places like Nurburgring, Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona. The addition of a Bentley is welcome news as racing has been the history and tradition of Bentley’s beginnings. The last time a Bentley was seen racing was in 2003 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans where they won outright finishing first and second in.
To accomplish this task, they have formed a dedicated motorsport team at their headquarters in Crewe and have appointed Brian Gush, their chassis, powertrain, and motor-sport director who was there at Le Mans in 2003. The GT3 is a rear wheel drive race car as per the regulations and it capitalizes on the durability, high speed stability, and aerodynamic efficiency of the Continental GT Speed. With the partnership of M-Sport Ltd, who is renowned for winning the World Rally Championships, Bentley is serious about developing this race car right from the start when it joins the fray later this year.
So you have gone shopping at Henry Poole & Co. for a bespoke suit, Turnbull and Associates for a custom shirt, Lock and Company for a dapper hat, and John Lobb for shoes – now, you are ready to be fitted into your bespoke racing Bentley Continental GT3. Whether you go for a sprint race or a grueling 24-hour endurance race, your GT3 will be tailored to your specific needs from engine power to suspension settings to brake and tire choice – just the way you want it. Gentlemen racers only need to apply.
From heaven, W.O. Bentley has been waiting patiently for this day to arrive when the race car bearing his name would once again roar down a race track heading towards glory. We’ll see what happens as the development for this race machine continues on and how close they can come to their heritage of being our front and winning. W.O. wouldn’t want it any other way.