Off skiing? Bentley has just unveiled the perfect machine to get you to – and over – the snowiest of mountaintops. But this coolest of Continentals is busy this weekend – taking part in Bentley’s first ice race.
The 626bhp off-piste giant is competing in the GP Ice Race in Zell am See, Austria, which slithers into action on 1st-2nd February. Ice racing has a long history – it began with skiers being pulled along behind riderless horses, known as skijoring. Cars soon replaced horses and the event became a highlight of the winter season at Lake Zell from the 1930s. It was brought back as competitive motorsport in 2019 after a gap of 45 years.
And it is this race that Bentley is entering with a specially-prepared Conti GT for the first time. Not that cool runnings is unfamiliar to Crewe, the brand having set ice speed records in 2007 and 2011.
There’s even a new take on the traditional “Bentley boy” entrusted with keeping the 207mph Continental between the barriers on the purpose-built ice track. The driver is a woman. Junior World Rally Championship driver Catie Munnings will take the wheel, marking her out as the first female driver of the modern era to race competitively for Bentley Motorsport.
“I actually still can’t believe I’m getting let loose in a Bentley to do an ice race,” said Catie, former host of the CBeebies television programme Catie's Amazing Machines and daughter of former rally driver Chris Munnings.
“I’m completely blown away by the car. At first I thought it would feel heavy, but I was amazed by how dynamic, nimble and responsive it is. It can dance like a lightweight rally car.”
Bentley’s ice, ice baby has been kept pretty close to standard spec, with the addition of extra lights, a roll cage, racing seats, a livery that reflects that of the record-breaking Continental GT from Pikes Peak last year and ski rack on the roof. There’s more ground clearance and wheelarch extensions to allow for the bigger studded Pirelli Scorpion tyres. Otherwise the twin-turbocharged, 6.0-litre W12 engine, advanced anti-roll control and luxury cabin are as the regular Conti, as is its 0-62mph time of 3.7 seconds.
As well as taking part in the racing around the 600m course Catie and the Bentley will put on an exhibition of skijoring when she will tow skier Sven Rauber behind the Bentley around the icy course, re-creating in a very modern and multiple horsepower way what began as an Olympic sport in 1928.