Bentley invited a few discerning chaps to motor to Newport, Rhode Island and back again recently for a look at the J Class Regatta.
Dashing designer Duncan Quinn – DRIVEN’s own 007 – was there to bring back this report:
A journalistic wag once described the Bentley Turbo R of the 80s as a “tidal wave on wheels”.
I blasted up to Newport in the Bentley Continental GT and Mulsanne
I’ve no idea if he was right as I’ve never driven one, but I’m sure he’d have quite enjoyed the Continental GT and Mulsanne I blasted up to Newport in to get some wind in my sails at the J Class Regatta – well, that and a few light, refreshing beverages.
After an extremely glamorous 6:45 am start at Gimme Coffee in Williamsburg (bleary eyed, caffeine deprived and not so chirpy) we trundled off through the traffic and potholes of the New York road networks to test out the promise of the three head-turners in our hands.
Pit stop in Mystic, CT; click to enlarge
Certainly not for the shy or faint of heart, with 552 hp on tap and enough torque to twist the ears off a bull elephant, it was exceedingly difficult not to press the right pedal and take a deep breath as the beast within girded its loins and catapulted us up the freeway as if engaging light speed on the Millennium Falcon.
552 hp on tap and enough torque to twist the ears off a bull elephant
Alas the need for decorum (and a license) led to a far more relaxed drive albeit, with a few spurts, as we alighted for tea and crumpets in Mystic en route before arriving to the glory of the Maltese Falcon moored in Newport and the Pam, our jolly little tender for the day.
A vintage Breitling to keep track – though the Continental GT has a built-in Breitling clock; click to enlarge
It was originally the transport for a Michigan-based booze baron of the Prohibition era who would step onto the yacht from his lawnside dock, greet his butler, valet and pilot prior to performing his ablutions in the beautiful shower room, and have his breakfast on deck en route to his distillery across the water in Canada.
From our mahogany motor launch we eyed the awe-inspiring J Class yachts racing each other
With a can of Newport Storm Hurricane Amber Ale in hand and not-so-curly sandwiches we relaxed in the blazing sunshine, inhaled the breeze and kept a keen eye on the breathtaking antics of Ranger and Velsheda, the two awe-inspiring J Class yachts racing each other that day.
Continental GTs and Mulsanne (center) on the dock at Newport; click to enlarge
As a man who can think of no better way to fritter away a fortune than on a racing yacht in total breach of the rule of the three F’s, I could find little fault in this, the most regal of sports.
After a brief respite we retired to watch the world go by and the sun set overlooking Narragansett Bay at the historic Castle Hill Inn – and prop up the bar and inhale rosé in preparation for a waterfall of vintage Krug that was to soon start flowing.
We quaffed vintage Krug and watched the sun set over Narragansett Bay at the historic Castle Hill Inn
That plus several bottles of fine claret, a sumptuous repast and some generous pours of a Macallan inspired by a particularly fine 1851 distillation led to many tall tales, not much sleep and the challenge of a run with Bentley President & C.O.O. Christophe Georges a mere four or so hours thereafter.
DQ (center) with Bentley’s Graeme Russell (left) and Christophe Georges (right) at Castle Hill; click to enlarge
Of course I could hardly say no so signed on for what I imagined would be a brief trot around the parking lot to ease the pain of the hangover that would surely ensue.
Little did I know Bentley likes its top brass cut from the same cloth as their cars – lots of torque and able to gallop long distances with ease and plenty in reserve.
Unlike the Red Baron who was shot down by a Bentley-powered Sopwith Camel, I lived to fight another day
Eight miles and just over an hour later I had to consume the entire orange production of southern Florida to rehydrate and ease some energy into the tired old hams, but hey – English pride was upheld and, unlike the Red Baron who was shot down by a Bentley-powered Sopwith Camel, I lived to fight another day.
Right at home along Newport’s famed Ocean Drive; click to enlarge
It was a standout evening all told, but then Bentley has always been a bit of a standout character when it comes to cars.
The firm was founded by a chap who loved racing bikes (Triumphs and Rex’s mostly) and built cars to the most exacting standards to do the ton with ease and still have plenty of power left.
W.O. Bentley built cars to the most exacting standards to do the ton with ease
They were the only non-French marque at the first Le Mans in 1923, and won it outright in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930.
One year they won even after losing two of the cars, limping across the line in a third piloted by a privateer Harley Street doctor who had fast become one of the infamous “Bentley Boys”.
Le Mans winning Bentley 3-Litre, 1924; click to enlarge (courtesy of Bentley)
They were a loosely formed team of dashing gentlemen rogues with an eye for champagne, ladies, fast machines and a daredevil-may-care attitude.
The Bentley Boys were a loosely formed team of dashing gentlemen rogues and racers
The infamous big V8 Bentley engine designed by W.O. Bentley back in 1959 was still in production well into the 1990s as it was simply so good the customers wouldn’t let them retire it.
They tried to replace it with a 4.4-liter BMW engine in the Arnage and were so inundated with requests to bring it back due to its simply immense and linear torque that they quickly switched back.
Continental GT; click to enlarge
This ultimately is what no doubt led to the distillation of the Bentley way which was re-interpreted for the new Continental GT.
The ability to do 100 mph all day in an interior befitting a racy gentleman’s club
Relaxed, assertive, confident, with massive torque, the Continental GT imparts the ability to sit at 100 mph all day long with ease and plenty in reserve while ensconced in the kind of accommodations more befitting a racy gentleman’s club.
Seventeen matched and hand cut and stitched hides alone are required for the leather interior.
Continental GT; Click to enlarge
For members of PETA I’m sure they’ll do something else as part of their bespoke program, but personally I’d stick with Daisy and her friends.
I closed my eyes and pictured magnums of Mumm, flapper girls and big grins.
That and an unimpeded run from Calais to St. Tropez down the A8 with a good radar detector.
I closed my eyes and pictured magnums of Mumm, flapper girls and big grins
Rumor has it one of the Bentley Boys once beat the famous Blue Train from Cannes to London by a whopping three-and-three-quarter hours in a Speed Six, but I’m pretty sure unimpeded the GT and the Mulsanne could each do the 1,100-odd mile stretch in under 10 hours with ease.
I may know a man who is game should they ever consider reforming the “Bentley Boys”….
Contintental GTs; Click to enlarge
ALL PHOTOS BY JOHN WALDER FOR BENTLEY
- Posted June 27, 2011
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