Brimmed with wood and leather as standard, the Bentley Continental GT may not be the most obvious choice for a race car, but the crew from Crewe has been fielding the grand tourer in international GT3-class racing since 2013. And with the launch of the new road version earlier this year, it only makes sense for a new race machine to be built, just in time for the 2018 motorsport season.

The new Continental GT3 was developed in partnership with M-Sport (the same team that ran Ford’s World Rally Championship effort), and uses the new mostly aluminium structure of the new road-going Conti to deliver a race-ready weight of well under 1,300 kg, as well as a weight distribution ideal for racing.

Power comes from the same 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 as before, fitted with a Cosworth engine management system and featuring a redesigned dry sump system and a new intake and exhaust. Unrestricted, it pushes out around 550 hp, sent to the rear wheels via a Ricardo six-speed sequential transmission.

In typical GT3 fashion, the exterior has been resculpted in the wind tunnel for extra downforce with a wider body, larger air intakes, a sizeable rear diffuser and a massive wing. Under the skin, the double wishbone suspension carries four-way adjustable racing dampers and Alcon iron brakes with six-piston front and four-piston rear callipers, hidden behind 18-inch BBS Motorsport wheels.

The new race car has already started a six-month test programme, picking up where its predecessor – which scored 120 podiums and 45 wins across 528 races, winning this year’s Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup – left off, with testing in the UK, France and Portugal. The team will now continue development work, which will include 24-hour race simulations.

Bentley Motorsport will continue to run two entries in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, and will also mount a challenge in the four-round Intercontinental GT Challenge. The new Continental GT will make its race debut at the opening round of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup at Monza.