The enduring memory of pre-war Bentley is that of the gentleman racer, an individual with exquisite intelligence, taste, and heroics when it comes to putting everything on the line on the racetrack. Bentley brought its ultra-luxurious Bentayga SUV to the 2018 Pikes Peak international Hill Climb to prove that traditional spirit is still alive in the brand as it exists in the modern era.
Veteran driver Rhys Millen wheeled the two-and-a-half ton brute past Range Rover’s existing record of 12:35.61, set in a Range Rover Sport in 2014 by Paul Dallenbach. The Bentley crossed the finish line at 10:49.902, nearly two minutes faster than the previous best time. Given that this was Millen’s 26th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, the pro driver made it clear the matte avocado green Bentayga was in good hands. Millen’s driving background is diverse, but he’s somewhat of a specialist when it comes to running up this particular mountain, as he’s won the event twice overall and his class 16 times.
Millen’s depth of experience is necessary when it comes to the complexity and difficulty of the 12-mile Pikes Peak course. During the annual hill climb event, in its 96th iteration for 2018, take on 156 turns that offer incredible diversity and ascend about 4,000 feet during the climb. The altitude presents a challenge for vehicle and racer alike.
A quarter of a century of hill climbs readied Millen for Bentley’s record attempt. He says his preparation and execution for the event may even differ from the other drivers and teams in the competition.
“Everything that I have done to date has been safe,” Millen said of his earlier runs. “On race day, we will typically go a little faster.”
In the pits standing beside his team’s trailer, Millen exudes a casual confidence that one wouldn’t expect from someone about to brave the sublime twists and sheer drop-offs of the Pikes Peak Highway. Sublime is the perfect word for the course because it embodies both the beautiful and the terrifying—a duality that suits the Bentayga’s dichotomous character that is both luxurious and savagely performance oriented.
Peter Guest, Bentayga product line director, spoke to us about the birth of Bentley’s SUV and how it turned into the racecar that made it to the summit in record time. It wasn’t the easiest vehicle to finesse he says. “The challenge with an SUV was that we got additional access to those attributes, which is utility in a luxury context.” Guest added that the Bentayga had to combine the best of the Mulsanne’s comfort, the Porsche Cayenne’s performance, and the Range Rover’s utility. “The real challenge was to create a car that could deliver all of those things in one car, and to find the technologies that would enable us to do that.”
It’s obvious that Guest is confident that the Bentayga ticks those boxes and that he believes in the product he develops. Guest said that the record is effectively a summation of what he believes the vehicle represents. “Pikes Peak is the perfect embodiment of everything that Bentley stands for, in terms of the traditional Bentley Boy’s values, going and doing something like that, in a way that perhaps might be not normally expected.”