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Bentley Readying EXP 9F Racers For 2013 Dakar Rally?

Volkswagen has hogged the glory at Dakar for the past three years but, according to a report from Car magazine, another brand under the German auto giant's umbrella is interested in contesting the famed desert race. The British publication says Bentley is buying back VW's Race Touaregs from private teams, and plans to enter them in the 2013 race wearing EXP 9F SUV bodywork.

Though the EXP 9F concept has yet to receive the official green light, the controversially styled SUV is all but guaranteed to get approved for production. While a production version may still be several years away, Car suggests Bentley wants to start building off-road credibility for the nameplate before its arrival. And what better way to do that than enter in the Dakar?

The Race Touaregs, which won the Dakar rally consecutively from 2009-2011, were recently sold to private teams after VW withdrew its factory support in order to focus on its World Rally Championship campaign. Bentley is reportedly repurchasing these vehicles, which the automaker will use as the basis for its 2013 entries. The Race Touaregs looked very little like the production cars after which they were named, and it's hard to say how closely the purpose-built off-road racers will resemble the Bentley EXP 9F originally revealed at the Geneva Motor Show.

UPDATE: A Bentley representative tells us: "We are evaluating all motorsport options but no decision has been made."

For the 2011 Dakar rally, the Race Touareg packed a twin-turbo 2.5-liter diesel I-5 producing just under 300 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. Whether Bentley's racers will employ the same drivetrain is unknown. The production EXP 9F, however, is expected to get the twin-turbo 6.0-liter W-12 from the Continental, while a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 and supercharged V-6 plug-in hybrid could also be offered.

Source: Car